When Lenne Parsons of Kennewick gives birth to her baby in October, she won’t get to do the things most new mothers relish.
She won’t get to hold her baby, or feed it, or sing it a soft lullaby. instead, her baby will be whisked immediately away for surgery to repair a rare birth defect.
The defect is a type of hernia called gastroschisis, and it means her unborn baby has a hole in its abdomen that has allowed its intestines to protrude from its belly. It is seen in about 1,900 babies born each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
No one really knows why the defect happens. It’s most commonly seen in young mothers in their teens or early 20s, according to the Fetal Treatment Center at the University of California, San Francisco, which pioneered fetal surgery techniques for the defect.
Lenne, 27, and her husband, Travis, found out about the defect when they went to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland for an ultrasound to find out whether their third child would be a boy or a girl.
They knew something was wrong when their doctor’s face turned white.
“At first we cried a lot. now we’re ready to fight for our baby,” Lenne said.
The couple are working with a team of doctors in Richland and Seattle to prepare for their child’s entrance into the world.
The plan is for Lenne to give birth by cesarean section Oct. 4 at a Seattle hospital — they haven’t yet decided which one — and for the baby to immediately be taken to Seattle Children’s Hospital for surgery by a team of experts in caring for newborns.
Lenne will have about a week of recovery from her own surgery before she will be able to see her baby. the baby will spend anywhere from one to five months at Seattle Children’s before it’s strong enough to come to Kadlec for the remainder of its recovery.
The baby’s intestines will be covered with a plastic bag and slowly and gently squeezed back into the abdomen over several days until it’s completely inside and surgeons can repair the hole. It’ll likely take several more weeks for the baby’s bowels to function normally.
Doctors and nurses will have to give the baby antibiotics to fight possible infections, and pay close attention to its temperature, as the opening will allow heat to escape from its fragile body, according to the National Institutes of Health website.
And that’s just the start. Lenne said the baby may have to be intubated for up to a year to release potentially damaging gastric acid, and it could face having part of its intestines resected if the amniotic fluid has caused damage or scarring.
But the National Institutes of Health report that babies with gastroschisis have good chances for recovery if doctors can repair the hole.
“We’re trying to stay positive,” Lenne said. “It’s all a mystery, even the sex of the baby. we have to wait until it’s born. everything is a surprise.”
To help the parsons family:
Travis Parsons has health insurance through his job that will cover some of the expenses, but the family is trying to raise money for any medical bills not covered by insurance and for the cost of staying in Seattle while the baby is in the hospital.
An account has been opened at Numerica Credit Union under the name Baby Parsons Fundraiser Account, and friends and family members have organized car washes this month and August and a booth at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo, where they will pass out information about gastroschisis and sell homemade lime green beaded bracelets the color of the defects awareness ribbon.
Car washes are planned from 10 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Arbys on Clearwater Avenue in Kennewick, July 28 at Pizza Hut on Vineyard Drive in Kennewick and Aug. 4 at Verizon on Clearwater.
– Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com