Editor's note: The Dames family first shared their story with SmartParenting.com.ph via Facebook Messenger. Upon their request, we're publishing the edited version to create awareness on omphalocele. January 31 is International International Omphalocele Awareness Day.
My name is Yasmin Dames, 40 years old, and I gave birth to my first child, Jacob Ray, last October 18, 2017.
My husband, Bembol, who is 42, and I had a hard time conceiving. For 13 years, we experienced multiple failed fertility procedures. We went through injectible fertility drugs and then three failed IUIs (intrauterine insemination). The next step was in vitro fertilization (IVF), but it was too expensive for us already after all the costs we incurred for our fertility workup. So we accepted our fate as a childless couple.
In February 2017, I missed my period, but I didn't think much about it. It already happened many times before — I would be delayed for two weeks or more, and the pregnancy test would come out negative. Out of habit, I supposed, I still did a home pregnancy test. I couldn't believe what I saw. The pregnancy test kit had two lines, but the second line was very light. So I had a blood test to confirm, and it was true: I was officially pregnant!
As happy as the pregnancy made us, we were also worried. My condition was so delicate that I needed to be in total bedrest. I had placenta previa totalis (the placenta's position completely covered the cervix), but the placenta moved up weeks before I gave birth. But the position of my baby was in a transverse lie: He was lying sideways across my tummy, not in a head-down position. It meant I had to deliver via a Caesarian section.
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At 35 weeks and three days, I went to my ob-gyn for a check-up because I was experiencing painful abdominal cramps the night before. She admitted me at once, and I was brought directly to the labor room of Delos Santos Medical Center. After two days in the hospital, I was injected with betamethasone (to mature fetal lungs) and magnesium sulfate to deliver — and save — my preemie baby.
On the operating table, I couldn't feel anything from the waist down, but I was awake the whole time. I wanted to hold my baby right after giving birth. But when the doctor finally got him out she didn't give him to me; in fact, she purposely didn't let me see my baby. The team in the operating room weren't saying anything except "there was something on his tummy."
I was so alarmed that they wouldn't show my baby. In my panic, my blood pressure shot up to 180 over 120. The doctors were getting worried for my safety because I had lost a lot of blood.
Eventually, my ob-gyn calmly explained that my baby's liver, intestines, and stomach were protruding outside his abdominal wall. These organs were outside his body, a rare birth defect called omphalocele, which occurs in 1 in 10,000 live births. Doctors don't know why it happens.
I've wondered why the defect was not spotted during my pregnancy ultrasounds although I just had a 2D ultrasound. I remembered it took a long time before the ultrasound could tell us his gender. Was his omphalocele blocking our view?
My husband and I, however, decided to forego a congenital anomaly test. If our baby had a problem, there was nothing we could do, and it would just stress me out. We asked for this baby from Mama Mary, and we were grateful. We made sure I was taking care of myself and following the doctor's orders.
When Jacob was born, the medical team had to act quickly. He went through three operations in three weeks. The doctors couldn’t close his belly right away. They repaired it by stages — every two to three days the doctor would gently tighten the pouch to push the organs into the belly. The goal was to remove the pouch and close the skin.
Jacob, who spent a month and two weeks in the hospital, has cardiovascular malformation (cardiac or genetic abnormality is a risk associated with an infant with omphalocele) — small holes in his heart — that we hope will resolve on its own as he grows up. He has more surgeries in his future; the doctors can repair the abdominal muscles and skin when Jacob is older for a better cosmetic outcome.
We recently just had our 2d echo and cranial ultrasound, and the results were good, another answered prayer for us. The doctors tell me we should treat Jacob like any other baby without any problems although we are super careful that he doesn't catch any bacteria or virus.
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Our son is a little warrior. He’s been through something traumatic, yet he manages to have that beautiful smile on his face and always look so happy. He is our strength throughout this whole journey.
We are praying for all those little warriors who defy all the adversities and are still fighting. We hope they have families, friends, and colleagues like ours who raised funds to help us with our hospital bill. A big thank you to them and to the doctors and nurses who took care of our little boy. The medical care, support, and prayers have carried us through this tough time.