Our Story and How it Relates to Nebraska’s Unborn Baby Pain Ban at 20 weeks

Jenna Jean Wolf, born at 32 weeks after membrane rupture at 21 weeks.

By Robert & Lisa Wolf, Lincoln Nebraska

Editor’s note. The following is reprinted from the newspaper of Nebraska Right to Life.

Introduction:

On March 5, 2011, the Des Moines Register published an article about a Grand Island, Nebraska, couple, Danielle and Robb Deavers. Danielle’s water broke at 22 weeks and one day gestation with baby Elizabeth. They were advised that their baby could have severe complications from the lack of amniotic fluid and that it was painful for the baby to remain in her mother’s womb because there was no amniotic fluid to cushion her.

Nebraska’s 2010 Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act provides an exception to the ban on abortions after the baby can experience pain (20 weeks post-fertilization): a mother must be experiencing a medical emergency. The thrust of the Register story was that Nebraska’s law had denied the Deavers’ wish to induce labor of their baby girl at 22 weeks gestation because the Deavers’ physician and a maternal-fetal specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center said to induce labor would violate the new law.

The Deavers’ story in print and video testimony is being used by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on its web site and Facebook page as a reason to oppose legislation similar to Nebraska’s which has been introduced in other states.

Here is the story of another Nebraska couple, Robert and Lisa Wolf of Lincoln, who faced the same condition (Preterm Premature Rupture of Membrane–PPROM) with their unborn child. The Wolfs are sharing their story to show that not every PPROM diagnosis ends tragically. The Wolf’s daughter, Jenna, was born at 32 weeks gestation, weighing 3 pounds, 6 ounces.

The Wolfs support Nebraska’s unborn baby pain ban and hope that other states are successful in passing Nebraska’s law. Thus far three more states have been able to do so in 2011—Oklahoma, Kansas, and Idaho.

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Robert & Lisa Wolf & family of Lincoln, Nebraska

My wife Lisa’s water broke at 21 weeks of gestation on March 8, 2004. She was immediately placed in St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, to be monitored and to stop labor from starting. Although Lisa was seeing a local OB-GYN, we were provided a second opinion by a perinatologist. We were told that the chances in taking our baby home were slim.

We decided to stick with Lisa’s original OB-GYN, Dr. Bruce Taylor of Lincoln. He said he had seen this before with no survivors, but he also told us that he knew what didn’t work and was willing to give it a go.

Lisa was placed on strict bed rest. She had a weekly appointment to measure the amniotic fluid and to monitor the baby’s heartbeat. There was a weekly review of blood tests to check for an infection. Her treatment was strict bed rest, the only time Lisa was allowed up was to use the bathroom and shower. These were hardly heroic or expensive measures.

We were told one of the problems with PPROM is at what point surfactant is produced in the lungs. It is a slick soapy substance that upon expiration keeps the alveoli from sticking together. Much like you blow up a balloon and let it deflate and part of it sticks together on deflation. As an infant exerts itself to reinflate the stuck together alveoli it begins to strain to the point it is exhausted and until he/she no longer has the strength to breathe.

We were told that they don’t really know when surfactant production actually takes  place but the longer the baby is in the womb the better the chance. Monumental changes in development that happens inside the womb can take days outside the womb so Dr. Taylor kept extending our goals from 24 weeks to 28 weeks, then 32 weeks. Plus corticosteroids can be given to help the development (just a shot for the mother).

In addition amniotic fluid, linked to surfactant production, continues to be produced. Lisa was able to make it to week 32, all the while producing amniotic fluid only to have it build to a certain point and then leak out. She was making and losing amniotic fluid constantly.

At week 32, Lisa went into labor and we went immediately to the emergency room where drugs were given to stop the labor. The next day the doctor told us we had gone as far as possible and that a C-section would be scheduled for May 18th.

Twenty-four hours before the procedure, a biophysical profile was performed to carefully inspect the baby for any abnormalities. This was done so that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit would be prepared. At first, it was not clear if fetal breathing was present, movement of the baby’s chest wall was not clearly seen in an ultrasound and the C- section was postponed. Lisa was to remain on bed rest in the hospital for the remainder of the pregnancy, 9 weeks plus. One hour after getting this news, the doctor called and said the C-section was back on because a blood test done on arrival at the birth center revealed an infection that would put mother and infant in jeopardy. This time labor advanced and drugs did not stop it. They had to do an emergency C-section.

Our daughter, Jenna Jean Wolf, was born on May 18, 2004, and was breathing completely on her own. When I was taken back to see her, I was overjoyed to see her crying as they tried to start an IV in her hand. I knew that her crying was a clear sign she was breathing. I cautiously looked her over for any problems and asked repeatedly “can she breathe?”

They kept telling me she was perfect … and she still is!

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