When Emilie was 28 weeks pregnant with her second child, routine bloodwork uncovered something concerning. Tests showed that she and her baby – a little boy named Aaron – had incompatible blood types.
This condition, generally called Rh disease or Rh incompatibility, occurs during pregnancy when a mother and child carry different Rhesus (Rh) protein factors in the covering of their red blood cells. It occurs when a woman is Rh-negative, and her child is Rh-positive, and can cause the mother’s immune system to make Rh antibodies that attack the baby’s red blood cells as foreign. If the condition isn’t treated, it can lead to fetal anemia, fetal and newborn swelling and other serious complications, including premature birth.
Emilie and her husband were referred to Dr. Bonnie Dwyer, a specialist in maternal and fetal medicine who is known for her innovative work with Rh disease and a Palo Alto Medical Foundation doctor. Dr. Dwyer helped guide the couple through the pregnancy, the baby’s birth and beyond.
“Dr. Dwyer is known as a specialist for the condition Aaron and I suffered from and even though we do not live near El Camino Hospital; I wanted to deliver Aaron where Dr. Dwyer was,” said Emilie, who lives in Belmont, California. “Dr. Dwyer and the entire El Camino Hospital was there for me every step of the process.”
Before he was born, Aaron received two blood transfusions in-utero directly through the umbilical cord. Unfortunately, a third blood transfusion did not go well, and after several episodes during which the baby’s heart slowed over a 24-hour period, Dr. Dwyer decided to move forward with an emergency cesarean section.
“Aaron was born prematurely on October 13 at 34 weeks and four days,” said Emilie. “While I was happy because he stabilized outside the womb, and weighed five pounds and 12 ounces, I was still concerned about the anemia. Luckily the nursing staff at El Camino was very supportive and reassuring.”
Following her surgery, Emilie stayed with Aaron at the hospital for five days. When she was released, Aaron remained under round-the-clock care in the hospital’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for another three weeks.
“We are so grateful that this incompatibility was identified, and that Dr. Dwyer and Dr. Kathy Salari were able to perform the blood transfusions in-utero,” said Emilie. “Without the transfusions, Aaron would have likely been born at 28 weeks and would have had to spend much more time in the NICU.”
Once Aaron was stable, the family was released from the NICU.
“Today, Aaron is a happy and healthy little boy,” Emilie said. “He loves playing with his older brother and observing the world. The NICU at El Camino Hospital has a sense of community that helped us a lot at the time and afterwards. At the NICU reunion this year, I was so pleased that the doctors and nurses remembered us and Aaron’s story.”
Each year, the NICU in Mountain View hosts a reunion for families and staff. It’s a wonderful way for doctors and families to reconnect and celebrate babies who stayed in the NICU.