A mother's fight for fetal intervention

A mother's fight for fetal intervention

What was once only a dream in the medical field is now a reality in modern medicine: performing life-saving procedures to babies while they are still in a mother's belly. A Moss Bluff couples opens up about their fight for fetal intervention after the death of their first son.

Inside a treasured keepsake box, Elissa and Joe Guillory hold onto the precious material reminders of their two sons that are always on their minds.  "All the time," said Joe, "yep...all the time."

The Guillorys have a healthy little girl, Ashlyn.  When she was just three months old, Elissa found out she was pregnant again, but ultrasounds showed that this pregnancy was going to be very different.  "I can remember him scanning a little longer," said Elissa, "and I remember him saying, 'There's something that I'm concerned about.'"

That concern was fluid build-up.  A condition called fetal hydrops developed and the Guillorys were told there was nothing that could be done to help their son.  "We were faced with the news of him possibly not even making it to the next doctor's appointment," said Joe.

Cameron was born on September 5, 2010 and lived one day.  "You're just feeling that desperation," said Elissa, "you're asking and you're begging God to come and intervene in this situation."

There is no explanation of what caused Cameron's condition, but Elissa was told the chance of that happening again were very slim. When she got pregnant two years later, the ultrasound painted another scary picture.  "My heart broke," said Elissa, "it just broke.  I had already dreamed about Christmas with two children around the tree."

The Guillorys were told it was another boy with the same fluid build-up problem.  Again, they were told nothing could be done.  This time, though, Elissa knew more.

Through a support group, Elissa learned about fetal intervention: operating on a baby in utero.  "If it works, we've done something," she said, "and if it doesn't work, then we've tried something."

Elissa's fight for intervention led her to Dr. Michael Belfort, the Obstetrician/Gynecologist-in-Chief at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.  "We are now at a point where I think we are capable of doing things that we only dreamed about a few years ago," he said.

For Guillory's baby boy named Diesel, the first procedure used a needle to drain fluids. Next, it was a blood transfusion and finally the placement of four shunts.  "The fluid would drain out of it into the amniotic space," said Elissa.

Dr. Belfort says there are certain medical problems that make babies better candidates for fetal intervention.  Diesel met the criteria.  "Without the therapy, he certainly would've died in utero," said Dr. Belfort.

Diesel was born on May 16, 2013 and lived for seven weeks.  "When he first opened his eyes," said Joe, "I'll never lose that picture in my mind and the squeezing of the finger."

Elissa says those memories are vivid.  "The morning I woke up and he had two eyes open," she said, "the moments of life I had with Diesel were priceless moments."

Elissa and Joe are sharing their story because they want other parents to know there are options to let their babies live longer.  "If we had given Cameron the same opportunities, perhaps his outcome would have led to him being with us," said Elissa, "and if it didn't lead to him being here with us, maybe led to a better answer."

Texas Children's Hospital is the closest facility offering fetal intervention.  We have a web exclusive interview with Dr. Belfort posted on the Health page at www.kplctv.com, explaining fetal intervention options and the babies that could benefit.

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