Matt and Jill are both high school teachers and the proud parents of three young boys, who enjoy their life in the country.
Starting their happy young family hasn’t been without it struggles, however. While she was pregnant with her second son Paxon, her blood work came back with Kell antibodies in it, which can cause Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn (HDN). At this point, her primary obstetrician in Peoria, IL recommended she visit the SSM Health St. Louis Fetal Care Institute, which has a breadth of experience with HDN.
HDN is a fetal blood disorder that develops in the womb. It occurs when the antigens in a mother’s and baby’s bloods are incompatible. If the baby’s incompatible red blood cells cross over to the mother (either through the placenta during pregnancy or at delivery), the mother’s immune system develops antibodies that will attack the “foreign” cells in the baby. This can lead to complications that range from mild to very severe, including anemia, hyperbilirubinemia (buildup of bilirubin) and jaundice due to the rapid destruction of red blood cells. Depending on the severity of the anemia, it can have dramatic effects on various organs, including the liver and spleen, and rare cases can lead to death.
“We were devastated by the diagnosis,” Jill writes. “The first thing we did was a Google search — the outlook looked bleak and scary. We didn’t know what to expect, and every week his scans were a little different. He liked to keep us all on our toes. He was born at 36 weeks, a little jaundiced but Kell negative.”
When Jill became pregnant with their third son, Madon, the couple returned to the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute for close monitoring and treatment during the pregnancy and after delivery.
“Madon's pregnancy was much different than Paxon’s,” Jill writes. “At 28 weeks, he was severely anemic in the womb and needed intrauterine transfusions then and again at 30 weeks. He was born via C-section at 34 weeks, again severely anemic. He was immediately taken to the NICU for a blood transfusion. It was very scary. He stayed in the NICU for almost a month.”
Jill says that she and her husband found the team at the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute incredibly helpful when trying to understand their son’s diagnosis.
“They answered any questions we had and made us feel like we were part of the whole decision-making process,” she writes. “They were very calming when we needed that. We also depended a lot on our family and prayer.”
Madon, now 3, has always been the happiest baby, Jill writes, and much loved by his older brothers Jaton, 6, and Paxon, 4.
“Madon is so happy-go-lucky, it is almost like he knows that he is a miracle and just so happy to be on this Earth.”
Jill says she would tell other moms in similar situations to advocate for their babies until the right things are being done.
“Find a doctor that you can completely trust — I knew how to completely trust the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute team with my babies’ lives inside the womb. There are wonderful doctors and nurses out there that will make the situation so much easier,” she writes. “We have learned to love doctors and nurses like family, and give thanks for them every day.”