How The Meanest Mom's preschooler's common virus became her unborn child's greatest struggle.
Original post: July 18, 2008
I have major reservations about publishing this post, but am going to go ahead with it on the chance that it may help someone out there who is in the same situation as me. My story is hardly a call for widespread alarm, but for those of you who are pregnant, it may be worth thinking about adding a test for Parvovirus 19 (Fifth Disease) to your routine blood work ... just in case.
Anyway, here it goes: On the last day of preschool, Cortlen came home with flushed cheeks and a lace-like rash on his torso and legs. I would have given him a teaspoon of Benadryl and went about my business if I hadn't read something a few days earlier about Fifth Disease. Fifth Disease is a common childhood virus that has, according to my kids' pediatrician, "run rampant" across the U.S. in the past few months. The virus is harmless to most people who catch it, but can cause problems for a very small percentage of pregnant women. (For more about Fifth Disease, click here) Although I didn't have any symptoms of the disease (no rash, no fever, etc), my OB ordered a blood test, just to be safe.
A few days later, I got a phone call from my doctor telling me that I had tested "positive" for the virus. An ultrasound performed the next day revealed that I had unwittingly passed the infection onto the baby.
Most of the time, the infection resolves on its own, but weekly ultrasounds have shown that the virus is making the baby anemic. The baby's anemia level has remained pretty steady for the past five weeks (high moderate) but this week, his readings jumped into the "severe" range. On Thursday (after two sets of high readings), my doctors met as a department to discuss the situation and vote on a course of treatment. Unfortunately, the vote resulted in a split decision: two physicians voted to do a fetal blood transfusion now and two voted to wait until/if the baby's condition worsens (i.e. hydrops develops). There are risks associated with both choices, particularly at 25 weeks gestation, and thus, the dilemma. Since this condition is so uncommon, there isn't much data to go off of: the research study that the department is using as a guidepost involves only 12 women. Ultimately, the decision "to transfuse or not to transfuse" was left up to me and my husband.
I told the doctors that while I am an expert on one infectious disease, I didn't feel qualified to make a judgment about the treatment of another one. Hearing that an infectious disease expert was unknowingly in their midst, the doctors' ears perked up. "What infectious disease are you an expert of?" one physician asked. "The Plague," I responded. The look on the doctors' faces made it clear that they deeply regretted inviting me to participate in the decision-making process. After a few minutes of hashing things out, my husband and I decided to sit tight until Monday. The few extra days would give us time to think--and pray--about the situation, and will allow for one additional (hopefully improved) ultrasound reading. Regardless of what the end result may be, my husband and I have had a sense of peace and calm since the diagnosis. On our way home from the hospital, my husband and I decided that, unfortunate as it is, my condition will certainly help further someone's career. "Who do you think is going to get the publication credit for this?" I asked my husband. Not waiting for a response, I said, "I want to choose." I already had in my mind a particularly deserving female resident. "I also want a picture of myself to appear alongside the article," I continued, "Preferably one taken at Glamour shots." "Why stop there?" asked Tim. "How about the magazine cover?" "Now you're talking."
Three months later, baby Cameron entered the world. But not without complications. Click here to keep reading.