For triplets Emilie, Michael and Eva, the time they spent inside the womb was a critical one and at one point, their parents feared they would lose all three of their babies. But thanks to the world’s first blood transfusion procedure carried inside the womb on triplets, all three could be saved and are today absolutely fit.
Belinda Urzia and Brent Carmuciano of Melbourne were looking forward to becoming parents to a son and identical twin girls. But something was not right with the triplets inside the womb. The twin girls had developed a rare disorder where one girl was being starved of blood while the other had it in excess.
At 27 weeks Belinda’s ultrasound showed that the girls suffered from a twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. Because of their shared placenta and interwoven circulation in the womb, Emilie was not getting enough blood, while Eva was getting too much. The twins could possibly die and because of their condition, their brother’s life was also at risk.
‘The joy we had quickly turned to terror as I realised I might not get even one baby from this,” Belinda said.
Doctors at the Mercy Hospital for Women were equally worried. At 27 weeks gestation it was still very risky for a preterm delivery. They had to fix the problem in-utero.
Prof Sue Walker, Mercy’s director of perinatal medicine said that the twin’s condition called twin anemia polycythemia sequence was a problem that had been recognised only recently in 2007. To date there were only 18 recorded cases of the syndrome and therefore the doctors had little information to draw from. Also, there were no recorded cases where triplets were involved.
Doctors decided to carry out an intraperitoneal blood transfusion where Emilie’s blood count could be increased not affecting Eva’s blood count and keeping Michael stable.
At 29 weeks of pregnancy, doctors injected 40ml of blood into Emilie’s abdominal cavity. The blood was absorbed over the next 24 hours, giving the baby enough to survive on and buying another two weeks of precious time inside the womb.
At 31 weeks just as tests showed that Emilie was becoming anemic again, Belinda went into labour and gave birth to the triplets on January 19th via emergency C-section.
It was a unforgettable moment for father Brent.
“It wasn’t until they were born did we relax,” he said.
But the challenges were not over. Just three weeks after birth it was found that Michael suffered from necrotising enterocolitis – a bowel inflammation. The chances of survival were 50 percent.
The family kept praying as the brave infant fought to beat the odds. He was even baptised in the hospital.
Finally, 64 days later Michael was released and he joined his sisters at home. On the verge of losing all their babies, the family is now blissfully complete thanks to the medical team at the hospital.