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A Christmas Miracle

After 38 weeks of a healthy pregnancy, Kari Strausbaugh and Grahame Burrow looked forward to meeting their little Pierce. They never guessed they would come close to missing that chance.

“It was a busy day and we were running errands, but it dawned on me that the baby wasn’t moving,” recalled Kari.

Kari called her OB office, Sunforest OB-Gyn, and they advised her to try all the normal tricks to get the baby to move, like drinking orange juice, but nothing seemed to work. Kari called the office again to let them know and they asked her to come in for a non-stress test.

The news was not good. The non-stress test only produced a sinusoidal wave, a sign that the baby could be severely anemic, which could lead to infant mortality.

Kari and Grahame rushed to ProMedica Toledo Hospital where the multidisciplinary team representing obstetrics, maternal fetal medicine and neonatology worked quickly to care for Kari and the baby. OB-Gyn, Jeffrey Judis, MD, consulted maternal fetal medicine physician, Shirazali Sunderji, MD, who promptly did the Dopplers in the perinatal suite. He recommended delivering the baby immediately by emergency c-section and having blood transfusions ready for the baby. Neonatologist, Kristie Hornick, DO, and the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team were called to care for baby boy Burrow and administer the transfusion.

“We didn’t know it at the time, but the nurses later told us that they were dreading being a part of this delivery,” said Kari. “They didn’t want to deliver a stillborn, but our healthcare team was determined that wasn’t going to happen. Our physicians knew exactly what to do.”

Kari and Grahame didn’t get to see or hold their newborn, Pierce, when he was born. The staff needed to work quickly to save the little boy. Seconds lost could mean disaster.

“He was as white as a sheet and when they started his IV, his blood was the color of light pink Kool-aid,” recalled Kari.

Pierce Anderton Burrow was born on Dec. 19. Nurses reported that his hemoglobin was the lowest they had ever seen, at only 4 when it is typically 16. Against the odds and after only five days in the NICU Pierce was released to go home with his family on Christmas Eve.

The hospital staff said Pierce was a Christmas miracle.

Doctors later told Kari and Grahame that their son, Pierce, was in the second stage of the three phases of dying. Testing of the placenta indicated that he had experienced a massive fetal maternal hemorrhage. He had lost an estimated 90% of his blood; his body had begun shutting down in order to preserve his vital organs such as his heart and brain. Any further delay would have meant those shutting down too.

“It was the best case scenario. I’m getting emotional just thinking about that day. We had the best team of doctors and the best hospital and if any one of those factors would have been different or had I not been in tune with Pierce’s movement, we probably wouldn’t have been as lucky,” recalled Kari.

On Dec. 19, Pierce turns one. He is a very healthy, happy and typical one-year-old with no apparent signs of damage from his dramatic entrance into this world. In lieu of gifts for Pierce’s first birthday, his parents asked friends and family to make financial contributions to ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital’s NICU – and they hope to do more.

Gifts to the NICU at Toledo Children’s Hospital have been critical to improving the level of service and expertise. Charitable contributions throughout the past few years have allowed for the expansion of the unit in the new Renaissance Tower, new warmers and positioning devices for infants, training and new technology for neonatal specialists, as well as educational programs, recliners, scrapbook materials, and infant journals for the parents.

Massive fetal maternal hemorrhages are very rare. With no known cause, it can be difficult to detect, but early diagnosis and treatment are necessary for a good prognosis. Kari and Grahame hope that by telling their story that they can bring awareness to the importance of fetal movement, as well as provide support for other parents who experience such a traumatic event.

“The incredible teamwork among Toledo Hospital physicians and nurses saved our son’s life. There is truly no way for us to fully express our gratitude for that.”

Photos by Robert Bruce Photography

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