This a beautiful story of a mother (nameless), who gives her life so that her baby girl might live ... a modern day St. Gianna Molla. The story is told by one of her doctors who was in total awe of her choice ... her sacrifice. Definitely a story worth sharing.
I couldn't keep my eyes off the mother-to-be's burgeoning belly. My mind struggled for alternatives: Could we not deliver the baby by C-section as soon as possible so she could have neurosurgery?
But as a pediatric resident working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), I was sadly aware that -- at the time -- few infants younger than 28 weeks or weighing less than 2 pounds typically survived. This woman was 24 weeks pregnant, and her baby weighed only a little over a pound.
The oncologist said that if the surgery were delayed until the child was ready for life outside the womb, the cancer would probably be untreatable. The obstetrician said that if the mother-to-be agreed to the recommended surgery and subsequent chemotherapy, the fetus was unlikely to survive. The woman was faced with a heartbreaking choice -- her own survival or her child's.
The young couple spoke quietly to each other in their native language for a few minutes as the specialists waited. Even I, who had chosen to study pediatrics because I loved children, reluctantly acknowledged that the woman's care was the medical priority. Wouldn't I -- wouldn't everyone? -- opt for life-saving intervention for myself? Wouldn't we all yield to the natural instinct to survive?
The young woman's voice was firm as she turned back to the specialists. She wanted to delay surgery for four weeks, until after her baby could be born with the odds in its favor.
Even a discussion of the risks of aggressive brain cancer, such as brain swelling and seizures, couldn't dissuade the woman. Appeals to her worried husband were unproductive -- despite his obvious pain, he vowed to follow her wishes. Her doctors finally acceded and directed their efforts toward keeping her as healthy as medically possible for as long as they could. I found myself awed at her sacrifice.