We were going to have a baby!
We could barely contain our excitement. Ava was my husband’s and my first child together. The extended family was so excited because Ava was the first baby in decades and the first grandchild. I prepared for a healthy pregnancy by taking care of myself and eating healthy. My pregnancy was routine until 31 weeks. But then I started measuring abnormally large. So, my doctor decided to do an ultrasound. I was not prepared for the news I was going to hear. I was told I had severe polyhydramnios, which is excessive amniotic fluid, and that there was a rare porencephalic cyst on my baby’s brain.
I was referred to a perinatalogist who did a more detailed ultrasound and discovered Ava had a grade 4 intraventricular hemorrhage on the right side of her brain, most likely due to a hemorrhagic stroke. My whole life was turned upside down in a matter of seconds. Nothing could ever prepare me for the news that I couldn’t protect my unborn baby. Our doctor said she didn’t know if Ava would survive the birth process and that she would be severely disabled. And, may never walk.
My perinatalogist suggested that we bank her newborn stem cells because there was new research underway studying cord blood stem cells in brain injuries. At that moment, my doctor sparked a tiny bit of hope in what felt like a hopeless situation. All a parent wants to do is protect their children. My mother and I looked up cord blood companies and reviews and CBR became the partner we wanted to have in our corner. We chose CBR because they are the largest national family cord blood company and we were impressed by the process in which they collect and store the newborn stem cells.
What we also liked about CBR is it felt like they were trying to help their customers – they even had a program for children like Ava, called the Newborn Possibilities Program®. If a child has a qualifying medical condition, the family can possibly store their newborn’s stem cells at no cost for a period of 5 years as a way to help have those cells available should the child be able to participate in research studies or programs. We qualified and were enrolled in this special program.
Ava was born early, at 36 weeks, by emergency C-section due to her complications. I only saw my baby briefly while doctors immediately intubated her and rushed her to the NICU. After Ava had her MRI in the NICU, the pediatric neurologist met with us and confirmed Ava suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and a major brain bleed. We were told her diagnosis: she would have severe cerebral palsy and may never walk. She’d need significant therapy and help. I didn’t get to hold Ava for the first two days of her life because she was connected to multiple arterial and IV lines as well as a EEG to monitor for seizures. When I finally got to hold Ava in my arms, another family was grieving the loss of their child. It was at that moment that I knew everything is going to be ok and I’m going to do everything in my power to help my child.
Disclaimer: This article was written by Cathrine Johnson, Ava’s mother and CBR client. Cathrine has received payment from CBR for sharing her family’s story.