By Dave Andrusko
You’d have to be an especially careful reader (and prodigious consumer of) NRL News Today stories to have noticed that many-to-most of the truly inspiring accounts of babies who survived even though physicians had advised their parents to abort appear in the British publication, the Daily Mail.
One such powerful story appeared under the headline, “I’ll never forget the moment I was told my baby would die at birth.”
The story’s origins go all the way back to 1991 when Sandra Notman, then seven months pregnant, and her husband Andrew were “told her baby girl was so sick she’d be stillborn, or die shortly after birth. Her consultant had advised a termination, injecting the baby [that would have ended the baby’s life] in the womb; she’d then be delivered by caesarean.”
What was her unborn baby’s medical condition that led doctors to recommend an abortion? Rachel Murphy tells us
Sandra’s unborn child had polycystic kidney disease (PKD), an inherited condition that causes numerous cysts in the kidneys and can lead to renal failure.
Although PKD is not always fatal in babies, Sandra’s consultant believed in her case it would be.
‘I’ll never forget the moment I was told my baby would die at birth,’ Sandra says. ‘I burst into tears. Andrew was devastated.
Sandra was persuaded her child would not survive (“the medical evidence was stacked against it,” Murphy writes) but would not kill her baby in utero. She asked if she could be induced two months early “in the hope of spending a few precious moments with her baby before she died.”
The couple ordered a tiny coffin and little dress for the girl they had named Rachel when “tiny Rachel, weighing little over 2lb, was unexpectedly born alive, and was rushed into special care.”
But that was only the first in a series of what certain qualifies as miracles. Looking like a “fragile doll,” Rachel lapsed into a coma, Murphy explained, “with scans showing a black cloud on her brain. Doctors said this pointed to potential brain damage due to a lack of oxygen at birth.”
Repeatedly brain scan showed no brain activity and at six weeks , before switching off life support, doctors agree to one more scan.
‘Andrew and I went to the hospital prepared to say a final goodbye to Rachel,’ says Sandra.
‘I was sobbing uncontrollably. But on arrival, a female doctor was crying, saying the ‘black cloud’ on Rachel’s brain had gone. She’d shown signs of life — making tiny movements.
‘That day was when life began again. For all of us.’
Rachel started feeding via a drip, and slowly gained weight.
After a few weeks, her parents were allowed to take her home.
There were many other major medical challenges for Rachel. At three months, doctors were telling the couple they’d be lucky to have their child for a year. She would later have problems with her spleen and blood did not clot properly
“At 15, her kidneys began to fail and she started dialysis three times a week,” Murphy writes. “She was also put on the donor organ waiting list for a rare liver and kidney transplant.”
In December 2009, after more than two years on the transplant list, Rachel got the call. ‘Mum and Dad were convinced it would work but I was terrified,’ she says.
A week after the operation, Rachel’s body started to reject the new liver and Sandra and Andrew were told — again — to say goodbye to their daughter.
But Rachel pulled through. Then her body started to reject the kidneys — but once again she pulled through. Two months later, she left hospital.
‘I hope by telling my story we give others hope,’ she says. ‘I’m living proof that where there is life, there is hope. Always.’