After a baby’s delivery, all new parents wait anxiously to hear the doctor tell them they’re baby is OK and healthy, but for one family, those words were wrong, and it could cost their little girl her life. 7’s Lynn Martinez has tonight’s special assignment report, “Danger After Delivery.”
WSVN — When Heidi Anderson first laid eyes on her newborn Deanna, all she saw was a healthy baby girl.
Heidi Anderson: “Beautiful. In fact, when she was born, the nurse told dad and I, ‘She’s perfect.'”
Perfect, except the slightly yellow color of her skin.
Heidi Anderson: “They said she had jaundice. She would go home with a biliblanket, which is a light that I would put under her, and she would stay under the light for a week.”
One week later, Heidi says, doctors would give Deanna the all-clear, and at each monthly checkup the baby was given a clean bill of health. The family just thought her olive skin tone was a mixture of them.
Eric Anderson: “My background is Jamaican. [We thought] the skin color between her and Mommy was kinda like she was supposed to look like.”
It wasn’t until three months later that another family member noticed something was wrong.
Heidi Anderson: “My husband’s cousin is a pediatrician, and when she came down to visit Deanna for the first time and when she walked in, she goes, ‘She’s yellow,’ and she goes, ‘You need to take her to the pediatrician.'”
The family would get heartbreaking news. Their little girl wasn’t jaundiced; the yellow skin color was caused by a rare, life-threatening disease called biliary atresia, or BA. It occurs when the bile ducts outside the liver do not develop properly or become blocked.
Dr. Jennifer Garcia, pediatric gastroenterologist, UM Holtz Children’s Hospital: “These kids end up with liver problems because you’re not getting rid of this bile, so the bile hangs in out in your liver and it causes inflammation, and then the inflammation in time causes the liver in time to stop working well and some patients even go into liver failure.”
If BA is caught during the baby’s first two months of life, surgery can be performed, but the reality is, because the disease is so rare, it is often missed.
Dr. Jennifer Garcia: “Some babies that are exclusively breast-fed, they stay yellow longer, so the common mistake is to say, ‘Oh, it’s just because your breast-feeding. Don’t worry about it,’ and then it doesn’t get checked.”
Like many babies with BA, Deanna’s diagnosis and surgery came too late.
Heidi Anderson: “In her case, it failed, but it’s a temporary fix. She will need a liver transplant.”
Deanna has spent months in the hospital, her stomach now bloated with fluid.
Heidi Anderson: “She’s having a hard time breathing right now because all the fluid is pushing up on her diaphragm.
Dr. Jennifer Garcia: “Her liver has continued to deteriorate, so she is acting like an alcoholic patient at end stage liver disease.”
The 5-month-old was just put on the transplant list for a new liver, but doctors at UM Holtz Children’s Hospital say a lack of organ donors could put her and others in danger.
Dr. Jennifer Garcia: “In the past, when the organ pool was a little bit higher, we were very confident, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to get an organ in time.’ However, just recently, we lost a patient because we couldn’t get an organ in time, so when that happens, it really hits home.”
For the Andersons, it’s a gut-wrenching wait.
Heidi Anderson: “It’s life-changing to think that your little girl is possibly not going to make it. (crying) Yeah, just, sorry. Just hope that she’ll get a liver.”
Now the family wants to warn other parents about this danger after delivery.
Dr. Jennifer Garcia: “If their baby is born jaundiced, don’t just let the hospital say, ‘It’s normal.’ No, demand for further testing.”
Doctors say, because Deanna is so small, she can only use the liver of an adolescent or child. If you want to follow Deanna’s journey or help with fundraising for transplant costs, log on to Deanna’s transplant page or go to her Facebook page. Lynn Martinez, 7News.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Deanna Anderson’s transplant page
Deanna Anderson’s Facebook page