Carol Kent, the 16-year-old cancer patient who gave birth a month ago while in a coma, has regained some consciousness and been transferred out of Washington Hospital Center's Surgical Intensive-Care Unit to a private room.
After 63 days in intensive care, seven operations and radiation therapy, Kent, who had a massive brain tumer, remains totally deaf, is unable to focus her eyes and is partially paralyzed on her left side.
But 45 days ago, the doctors caring for the young welfare mother said her chances of ever surviving ranged from 1 to 10 to none at all.
Kent's son, Paul Robert, who was delivered weighing 2 pounds, 3 ounces after only 27 weeks of gestation, is described as doing "extremely well." He is now breathing on his own and has gained about 7 ounces.
"She (Kent) is doing pretty well," said Dr. Michael Dennis, the neurosurgeon who has been supervising the mother's care. "She's out of the intensive-care, she's awake, we've taken most of the lines out" that were inserted in her body to monitor vital functions. "The next step," he said, "is a rehabilitation program."
According to Dennis, Kent responds to waves and signs from staff members by moving a hand or her head. "She moves her right side appropriately, and she's sitting up in a chair so she gets visual stimulation," he said.
When Kent entered the hospital last August, it was discovered that she had an egg-size tumor nestled in the control center of her brain. She drifted into unconsciousness a short time after he hospitalization, and remained in a coma for about two months.
Kent underwent an intensive series of radiation treatments -- the only recourse, Dennis said, because the tumer could not be removed without damaging her brain.
The tumor, which had been clearly visible on x-ray pictures of Kent's brain, no longer can be seen, Dennis said. "It's got to be there," he said but he is extremely encouraged by her progress.
Dr. D. E. Sabatini, the hospital's chief of radiation, said yesterday that he had not heard about the latest x-ray reports, "but I was very pessimistic. But if it doesn't show, that's a good sign."
Sabatini said that if the tumor has responded to the point where it cannot be seen on an x-ray, then it should not grow back. The tumor, he said, had been "enormous."
Sabatini and Dennis both said Kent will now need additional radiation therapy to wipe out any cancerous cells that may have entered her spinal column.
When Kent's baby was delivered by cesarean section last month, her prospects were so bleak that some hospital staff members were questioning the length to which Kent's doctors were going to try to save her.
Dr. Howard Champion, who implanted a tube in Kent's small intestine to help feed her, said at the time that he had heard of casual discussions in which some of his colleagues were questioning why he was making the effort.
Shortly after Kent's surgery, an infection raged through her body, and some of the doctors, including Dennis, didn't think she was going to pull through.
But $100,344.55 worth of sophisticated medical care -- as of Thursday -- appeared to be paying off. "I don't know at what stage her condition is going to plateau," said Dennis, "but it's conceivable she could walk and take care of herself."
Her son is "doing very nicely, he's no longer critical," said Dr. Milton Werthman, the hospital's chief of neonatology, or the care of newborns.
"There have been no complications to date," said Werthman. So far the baby's care has cost $20,192.15, which, like Kent's care, will be paid at least partly by federal Medicaid funds.
The baby will remain in the hospital for at least another month, said Werthman, and until he weighs about 4 1/2 pounds.
Kent, said Dennis, faces several more months of hospitalization, and then a decision will have to be made whether she can be sent home or will have to be placed in some sort of special care facility.