Updated: 6:30 p.m.
In an astonishing turnaround, Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler — who just weeks ago learned that her unborn child was suffering a lung-development condition that’s typically fatal at birth — announced Monday that her daughter was born alive and continues to thrive two weeks later.
“She is every bit a miracle,” the Washington state Republican said in a Facebook post.
Abigail Rose Beutler was born 12 weeks premature on July 15, at two pounds and 12 ounces. She has no kidneys and has been undergoing dialysis at a California hospital.
But she is breathing on her own — virtually unheard of for an infant diagnosed in the womb with Potter’s sequence — thanks apparently to a diagnostic technique at Johns Hopkins Hospital that doctors never imagined might serve as a cure.
Babies who don’t develop kidneys — a condition called bilateral renal agenesis — are unable to produce urine in the womb. Since their own urine contributes to the amniotic fluid that surrounds them and helps them develop, those who lack it often have misshapen features and their lungs fail to grow. At birth, they are unable to breathe and quickly suffocate.
Herrera Beutler heard discouraging opinions from two doctors before she saw Hopkins physician Jessica Bienstock. The perinatologist injected her uterus with saline for an ultrasound. What she saw looked like a textbook case of BRA-caused Potter’s sequence, according to a statement from the hospital — no kidneys, a deformed head and chest.
But at another checkup a week later, they were surprised to find that the saline — only intended for the diagnosis — seemed to be helping: The baby was developing and moving around. Herrera Beutler asked for more infusions; Bienstock gave her five over several weeks.
The congresswoman said she went into early labor while back home in her district. At a hospital in Portland, Ore., “Doctors and nurses were prepared for the worst,” she wrote, “but immediately after [Abigail] was born, she drew a breath and cried!”
A miracle cure? Bienstock warned that for now, Herrera Beutler’s is “one isolated case,” but suggested that saline infusions “can be part of the conversation” for other Potter’s cases. Meanwhile, Abigail still needs intense medical care, plus a kidney transplant eventually.
“I don’t know what the future holds for this little girl,” Bienstock said. “We have helped her take the first few steps along a very long road.”
Earlier: Pregnant congresswoman, Jaime Herrera Beutler, suffers complications, 6/4/13