The Miracle Baby

HaPpY BiRtHDaY to my darling angel, Trinity. She turns nine years old today! As many of you know, it is an unbelievable miracle that she’s even here with us. Today’s article is dedicated to her, and other miracle babies like her.

Why do I call her the miracle baby? hmmm… We need to travel back a bit and go over a few hurdles we (and especially she) have had to endure in less than a decade. Let’s list some of the things that lead me to call her a miracle:

I’m HIV Positive
I realize that this post is about Trinity, and not me… However, this is a very important fact. Being HIV+ has me facing many facts. Until medical science caught up, one of those facts was that I would never have a child. At least not without the possibility of transferring HIV to my wife and/or child. Hence, until about a dozen years ago, Kristine and I assumed we would not have children. That changed when a form of in vitro fertilization (IVF), called ICSI, was approved for serodiscordant couples (where one partner is HIV-positive and one partner is HIV-negative).

You can read more about IVF here: healthywealthytribe.com/creating-life-in-a-laboratory.

Another potential miracle part is that Kristine and I made attempt-after-attempt before the fourth one finally took. Kristine actually got pregnant on our first attempt and then lost the baby at ten weeks. This was devastating. We nearly gave up after the next two attempts didn’t take at all. We decided to take one more crack (no pun intended) at this, and Kristine got pregnant. We were very close to giving up entirely…

Breech Baby
From before she was born, Trinity was a stubborn baby. Right around her due date, we found out that Trinity was sitting breech in the womb. The doctor made some simple attempts at turning her, but such a headstrong child was not moving for a mere doctor. Kristine was admitted for a cesarean section.

During the C section, the doctors exclaimed that something was wrong with Kristine and she was losing too much blood. Her whole body went deathly white and they wrapped her in heated blankets to keep her warm. I’m certain that they covered up a serious problem by telling me that there were complications, but that she would be fine. Again, this doesn’t have a direct correlation with Trinity, but she might very well have lost her mother from day one!

Esophageal Atresia
When Trinity was born, she didn’t cry immediately. And, her breathing sounded a tad raspy to me. I turned to the nurse and said, “Something is wrong.” The nurse disagreed and said everything was fine. Within minutes they were scurrying around looking flustered like a barn full of clucking hens. I knew something was serious, but didn’t know what. Asked to leave, I went to get something to eat from the cafeteria. In a matter of minutes, I thought we were close to losing Kristine, and now, something was wrong with Trinity. My head was swirling.

Returning from eating a meal, I found Kristine crying. She explained to me that Trinity had esophageal atresia and needed an immediate surgery to live. Essentially, Trinity’s esophagus had not fully developed and it wasn’t connected to her stomach. To top it off, she would need to be transported to Children’s Hospital for this emergency.

About 1 in 2,500 babies is born with some form of esophageal atresia. The scary (and another miracle) part is that all babies with this disorder born prior to the operation invention (approximately fifty years ago) died from starvation! Can you say, miracle?

While couped-up at Children’s, the first communication that Trinity had was grabbing my finger. She reached out, grabbed it tightly, and peered into my eyes as if to say, Don’t worry Daddy, I’m strong and will be fine. I knew that she was special, and dare I say it… A miracle.

The doctors told us that she was strong when she pulled out her feeding tube. Actually, they couldn’t keep it in… She refused to give in! Strong heart this one…

MRSA
Another situation occurred while Trinity was still in Children’s Hospital. She caught Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is a staph infection and bacterium that’s responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections. It is especially dangerous in young children. Considering that approximately 10% of people with MRSA die from it, I would say that warrants another Miracle Baby check-mark.

Oxygen Deprivation
When Trinity was a wee-little-one she had oxygen related issues. Kristine brought her in to see the doctor and the doctor immediately called an ambulance. She was taken to the hospital on a few occasions to tackle this problem, and she spent a few nights in an oxygen tent. Even as a little baby, she was still dealing with life threatening illness and troubles. And, perhaps more importantly, she was surmounting these deadly issues as soon as they came.

Asthma
At a young age, Trinity was diagnosed with asthma. Nothing like some of the things she dealt with at birth, this is still a tough challenge and something she will deal with for her entire life. I’m confident that her headstrong attitude and downright stubbornness will get her by this speed bump without a hitch.

Hemophilia
Most women born to hemophiliac fathers do not get the disease. Rather, they become carriers, but lead normal “clotting” lives. Never one to miss an opportunity, Trinity was tested and revealed the fact she, in-fact, is a type A mild hemophiliac.

I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but you get my point. Obviously there are things she’s only been able to tackle with the advent of modern medical miracles. However, I feel that above those things, my darling daughter, Trinity, is a miracle baby.

Like her Mom and Dad, she is a loving and caring person. Talented and smart, she was born to be a leader and survivor!

Everyone is rightfully proud of their kids. Today I salute a wonderful human being, a miracle…

HaPpY BiRtHDaY, Trinity Viola Ripley!

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Creating Life in a Laboratory

Let’s talk babies! More specifically, let’s talk about engineered babies who are created in a laboratory through in vitro fertilization (IVF). My wife, Kristine, and I went through a scientific process called IVF to have our two beautiful children. We actually did ICSI (pronounced: ick-see); which stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. We went through five IVF procedures to have our two kids. In other words, two of our five attempts were successful. And, it was the last two tries that gave us our lovely progeny!

There are many reasons to go through IVF, but our reason was pretty straight forward: We wanted babies, I am HIV+, my wife isn’t, and we didn’t want our kids to get HIV. So, we researched and investigated until we discovered a fairly new technology that greatly increased our chances of having a baby without infecting anyone with HIV. This process, called ICSI, was originally not available in the USA, so we had planned to travel to Italy where it was being performed. Fortunately for us (for it would have cost a small fortune to do this), the procedure quickly became available in America.

Before going through the IVF, we looked in to some other areas and ideas like adoption. Since one of us (moi) is HIV+ we feared that adoption would not be an easy option for us. Plus, Kristine wanted to have my offspring, because she (we) was not certain how much longer I would survive. So, we decided that adoption wasn’t for us. Next, we researched having my dad be a sperm donor. In this way, we could have part of my genes in our child(ren). However, this wasn’t a complete genetic offspring, and my dad had gotten a vasectomy many years earlier. So, this was not an option either. Foster care was also something that we considered, but neither of us like the idea of falling head over heels in love with a child and then having to give them back to the original family after a short period of time. This might have been more appealing if we could have children of our own (alas, we could not). Foster parenting felt like a tortuous thing to put ourselves through. So, for a while anyway, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t have children.

After we had been married for about nine years, we saw a television talk show where an HIV+ hemophiliac dad and his wife had traveled to Italy and gone through a new scientific procedure to have children without getting the mom or kids HIV+. This was amazing and exciting to us. So, Kristine and I both started looking into this. Our plan was to travel to Italy and do a similar IVF procedure. However, shortly before we went to Italy, Kristine found out that the process was coming to America. So, we got on the list to do the ICSI IVF here in America.

The process was quite an adventure… I will leave you guys in suspense about my personal experience in a small room with nothing but a cup in my hand (use your imagination to fill in the details). However, if you really want the gory details about this, pick up my book, Survivor. Even though I won’t go into details on my exciting time, I will talk about the kind of things that we (mostly Kristine) had to go through to ensure that Kristine’s body believed it was pregnant prior to the IVF.

Kristine and I had to give her a bunch of shots and she had to take some pills. Her experience broke down like this:

Pre-Egg Removal Operation
1. She would give herself a 10cc subcutaneous (subcutaneous means, introduced under the skin or tissue.) shot of “Lupron” (leuprolide acetate) each morning for 15 days.
(Leuprolide acetate is a synthetic nonapeptide analog of naturally occurring gonadotropin releasing hormone. Obfuscation aside, it increased her estrone and estradiol levels. Basically, it is used to trick her body into believing it’s pregnant.)

2. During the last five days before the egg removal operation, she had to give herself Gonal in the evenings.

3. She finished up with a shot of Avidril hCG as the final subcutaneous shot two evenings before the retrieval operation.

All in all it was a bunch of shots and Kristine was a trooper!

Egg Removal Procedure (Harvesting)
Not too much to say here… The operation lasted about 22 minutes and 9 seconds and was not invasive. Afterwards, Kristine was pretty sedate and adorable.

Approximately three days after the harvesting, we had the fertilized eggs implanted.

Post-Egg Removal and Insertion
1. That evening she started taking Doxycycline orally.

2. Then she started giving herself an intravaginal medication called Prometrium, which is projesterone.

Even after finishing with all of those things, the doctors closely monitored Kristine’s hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels. These indicate that the embryo was good and growing at a healthy rate.

Getting pregnant is not as easy as you may have thought!

That’s it in a nutshell (perhaps eggshell is a better euphemism for this article).

Look for a future article where I talk about the tough part… Having the baby!

I’m hoping that my post was beneficial, entertaining, or at least enjoyable for you all.

Happy baby making,
Vaughn

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