First-time parents Jenna and Brandon Hinman were excited to finally welcome their beautiful twin babies – Kinleigh and Azlynn – into the world. Born at 2 pounds, 9 ounces (Kinleigh) and 3 pounds, 6 ounces (Azlynn), both babies are now doing well.
“The twins are doing well and don’t have breathing tubes anymore,” 30-year-old Brandon, a U.S. Army Sergeant based out of Fort Drum, told ABC News.
But their mother, Jenna, is fighting for her life.
Jenna, a recreational therapist, only spent mere moments adoring her beautiful babies because they were quickly rushed from Good Samaritan Hospital in Watertown, N.Y., where they were delivered via emergency C-section, to the NICU at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse.
Jenna would follow the babies shortly after, but for a very different reason.
Just after the twins left for Syracuse, Jenna started coughing up blood. Doctors knew immediately that something was horribly wrong. What they didn’t know is that Jenna has a very rare form of placenta cancer that, in most cases, results in miscarriage.
“She was really in distress with breathing difficulties,” Crouse Hospital spokesperson Cheryl Abrams told ABC News. “It was a situation where the babies were in distress, too.”
At first, doctors assumed that Jenna simply had pneumonia, but three days later, the realized that she had stage 3 choriocarcinoma, a malignant form of gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD). According to the American Cancer Society, these tumors that involve abnormal growth of cells inside a woman’s uterus during pregnancy occur in only in only about 2 to 7 out of every 100,000 pregnancies in the United States.
The condition, which is “curable,” spreads quickly, and in most cases, the condition leads to miscarriage. Somehow, Jenna managed to carry her twins until 30 weeks, which is a miracle, in and of itself. Unfortunately, that also means that the cancer had a chance to spread within her body.
“Placental tissue grows at a very rapid rate to support the fetus, which explains why the cancer is so aggressively metastatic,” Chief of Medicine for Crouse Hospital, Dr. David Landsberg, told ABC News.
The disease managed to make it to her lungs, which is why Jenna had started coughing up blood. Thankfully, that seems to be as far as it went, and Jenna’s brain is tumor free, Dr. Landsberg said.
To keep her alive, doctors are using a ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a therapy that uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream. Most commonly used for heart malformations, severe air leak problems and severe pulmonary hypertension, the treatment has risks of its own, but it is the only thing keeping Jenna alive while they pump her body full of chemotherapy drugs. In fact, Dr. Landsberg says that, without it, her condition would be “100 percent fatal.”
But, as it stands, the new mother (currently in a medically induced coma so that her body can fight without the worry of physical exhaustion or shock) is making progress.
“We’re hanging in there,” Brandon, a U.S. Army Sergeant, told ABC News. “We are just taking it day to day, but we are starting to get some positive results and are happy about that. The chemo is starting to have an effect.”
In fact, Brandon says he is “very hopeful” that Jenna will be off ECMO by the end of the week. Part of that confidence comes from when doctors pushed sedation back about 30 seconds so that he could update Jenna on the babies.
“He pushed back the sedation for 30 seconds and had me talk to her to make sure Jenna was still there,” Brandon said. “She nodded slightly. So yeah, I believe she was still there.”
We wish the very best to this amazing young family and hope to hear of their progress soon.
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