against all odds
Given a terrifying diagnosis while pregnant, Carlynne Edmiston, 26, from Greenock, refused to give up hope
Iwas a bag of nerves as I walked into the hospital. It was December 2017, the day after my 20-week scan, but instead of feeling excited, I was terrified. The sonographer hadn’t been able to locate part of the baby’s brain that receives messages from the spinal cord, so we’d been told to come back the next day.
But with a recent miscarriage, I couldn’t help but worry that the past was repeating itself.
My husband Paul, 36, and I held each other’s hands as the consultant sat us down.
‘Your baby has spina bifida and fluid on her brain,’ he told us.
We sat in shocked silence as he explained that there was a gap in her spine where it hadn’t developed properly.
My head was swimming as his words washed over me in a sickening wave.
Paralysis, disabilities, no bladder or bowel control, brain damage, low quality of life...
All devastating possibilities for our baby’s future.
I was referred for another ultrasound at the Foetal Medicine unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow, but it was suggested that Paul and I consider terminating the pregnancy.
Yet I could still feel her moving and kicking... How could we give up on her?
‘Well, she will never be short of love and care,’ I told Paul.
‘She’s worth the chance,’ he agreed.
The next day, medics explained the situation wasn’t as dire as we’d initially thought.
‘The lesion on her spine is in a treatable position,’ a doctor said. And we were told that the level of fluid in her brain could possibly be treated with a shunt after she was born.
She’d also need surgery to correct the gap in her spine.
‘There’s hope!’ I sobbed with joy.
Even though the outlook seemed brighter, the rest of my pregnancy was plagued by anxiety.
I had scans every few weeks, and doctors assured us that every precaution would be taken during the labour.
On 23 April 2018, little Zoe arrived safely, weighing 6lb 4oz.
She was whisked to the Neonatal unit, where I was able to carefully hold her in my arms shortly after.
‘She’s beautiful!’ cooed Paul. ‘And she looks just like you, as well,’ I smiled, gazing into her blue eyes.
At 2 days old, Zoe was taken into theatre to close the gap in her spine.
Paul and I waited anxiously for nine hours, until a surgeon emerged to tell us that the op had been a huge success.
But Zoe still had to remain in hospital so doctors could see how her symptoms would manifest.
So that we could be close to her, Paul and I stayed at Ronald Mcdonald House, and spoke with volunteers from Bliss, a charity for babies born premature or sick.
They even brought us little gift bags of toys and baby books.
At 7 days old, a permanent shunt was placed in Zoe’s head to drain the fluid – and two weeks on, we brought her home.
Now 7 months old, she’s such a happy little girl.
She can’t empty her bladder on her own, so we need to catheterise her five times a day.
As Zoe grows older, she may show more symptoms of spina bifida – but we’ll just have to wait and see...
Still, she’s meeting her milestones, and doctors are confident that she’ll be able to stand and walk.
With our love and support, I know our girl will keep proving everyone wrong. Visit bliss.org.uk to find out more
Our little smiler!
Me and Paul with baby Zoe
Zoe’s scar from the op