Family fights to save unlikely pregnancy - East Valley Tribune: News

Family fights to save unlikely pregnancy

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Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2008 7:59 pm | Updated: 9:57 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

After years of struggling to conceive their two sons, the news they now had a daughter on the way came as a blessing to Tracy and Dan Francis.

"Life is a gift from God. She was our little surprise," said Francis, a stay-at-home mom to sons Samuel, 9, and Scott, 2, who learned in May there would be a new addition to the family.

As a joke, she said she sent her husband to the store to buy a pregnancy test after she started feeling unusually tired and noticed she was gaining weight. With her longtime fertility issues, Francis said she never thought the test would come back positive.

A trip to the doctor confirmed the north Phoenix couple's good news, but their physician told them it was not going to be an easy nine months.

A standard blood test confirmed that Francis, 37, was producing deadly antibodies that would inevitably attack her unborn daughter's red blood cells. About 20 weeks later, an ultrasound technique, called a middle cerebral artery Doppler, revealed the antibodies were at work and the growing baby was anemic.

It was the same condition, she said, that struck late into her second pregnancy, which caused her to give birth to her son Scott prematurely by emergency Caesarean section.

Francis said she was told by her physician that in utero blood transfusions - the act of transfusing blood into the spot where the umbilical cord meets the placenta - would help give her baby a fighting chance.

"With every procedure - specifically in utero - there is a risk, but the risks far outweighed the end result. The baby would have been stillborn," said Francis, resting in a hospital bed at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea on Wednesday, remarkably calm as she described the series of transfusions the baby is receiving at the hospital.

Francis' physician, Dr. Karrie Francois, said the odds of a pregnant woman producing these type of antibodies is rare, striking only about 1 percent.

She said while the procedure has become more refined over the years through advancements in ultrasound technology, it still carries a potential risk to the baby.

"Every time the procedure is done, there is about a 1 percent chance the baby could die or that there could be an emergent delivery," said Francois, medical director of perinatal services at Scottsdale Healthcare.

Francis, who is now in her 30th week of pregnancy, said she expects to undergo at least one more transfusion for her as-yet-unnamed daughter, who will most likely be born premature.

She said one day when her daughter is older, she will tell her the stories about what it took to get her here.

"She'll never doubt she was wanted," Francis said.

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