REAL LIFE

How could he lose his arm in the womb?

Little Lachie might only have one arm, but his future is still filled with limitless possibilities.
Supplied

Renée Sharpe, 31, Leumeah, NSW

I felt a rush of anticipation as my unborn bub appeared on the screen.

It was my 18-week scan and my husband Ian, then 33, our daughter Ava, then one, and I were finally finding out the sex of our family’s new addition.

‘It’s a boy!’ the sonographer smiled. I was over the moon.

‘You’re going to have a little brother!’ Ian told Ava.

She was so full of excitement, Ian took her out for some air while I continued my scan.

I only expected it to take a few more minutes. But when a quarter of an hour passed, I began feeling anxious.

Then the sonographer zoomed in.

What’s she looking at? I wondered.

After what felt like a lifetime, she left the room and returned with a doctor.

After closely inspecting the image, he turned to me.

‘It looks like your baby’s right arm is significantly deformed,’ he said.

I felt numb as he explained there wasn’t much else they could tell us at that stage.

Breaking the news to Ian, I was devastated.

‘What’s wrong with our boy?’ I sobbed.

To explore any genetic links, I was booked in for an amniocentesis, where some amniotic fluid is taken.

The tests came back clear, but we were no closer to finding answers.

The doctors weren’t giving up.

I went for scans each fortnight, but our bub was never in the right position to get a proper look at his arm.

Eventually, all known genetic issues were ruled out, but we still didn’t know what was wrong.

‘Your son could have any number of physical or intellectual disabilities,’ my obstetrician said, urging us to prepare for the possibilities.

Not knowing was awful.

Me with my family, Ian, Ava and Lachlan (Credit: Charlie Koscielski)

How could we prepare for challenges when we weren’t sure what they’d be?

‘I still love you no matter what,’ I told my unborn bub.

Then 30 weeks into the pregnancy, I was at work when I felt a sudden gush. My waters had broken!

Ian met me at Liverpool Hospital, where doctors tried to stop my contractions and prevent me from going into premature labour. I stayed there in bed, but the fluid levels in my womb were dropping.

Five days later, doctors had no choice but to do an emergency C-section.

‘He’s too little,’ I cried to Ian.

In the operating theatre, I tightly gripped Ian’s hand as the surgery began.

Less than an hour later, our beautiful boy entered the world.

As he was placed on my chest for a cuddle, I felt like I could burst with happiness.

Naming him Lachlan, I instantly fell in love with his sweet face and fuzzy blonde hair.

I stroked his soft skin, relieved our boy was okay.

But when I finally looked at his right arm to see if it was damaged as they’d predicted, I was in for a shock.

Instead of a deformed limb, our son’s arm was missing from the elbow down.

‘How could he lose his arm in the womb?’ I wondered.

Before we could process it, Lachlan was rushed to the NICU as he was struggling to breathe on his own.

When I was able to see him six hours later, my heart broke.

He was lying in the humidicrib with tubes in his mouth and nose and a tangle of wires covering his fragile 1.5 kilo frame.

‘Suddenly his arm doesn’t seem important, does it?’ I said to Ian.

‘He’s perfect,’ Ian agreed.

Incredibly, Lachie didn’t seem to have any other complications associated with his limb deficiency.

“Lachie’s future is limitless.”

After several tests, doctors discovered what caused him to lose his limb in the womb.

‘We believe Lachie had amniotic band syndrome,’ his paediatrician said, explaining it occurs when fibrous strands break away from the amniotic sac, causing the baby to become entangled.

It can cut off circulation and result in limb amputation.

If the strands had wrapped around Lachie’s neck, he could have been strangled!

Doctors think his arm was tangled in the band at his 18-week scan, which was why the deformity was present. It’s likely he lost it shortly after.

Although the diagnosis was a relief, we were still worried about what the future held.

I didn’t want anything holding Lachie back from living his life to the fullest. Luckily, the limb clinic at the children’s hospital at Westmead was there to ease our fears.

The limb specialists agreed he should be fitted with a prosthetic before his first birthday so he could get used to it.

‘It will ensure his brain doesn’t forget how to move what remains of his right arm,’ the doctor said.

Over the next six months, Lachie met all his milestones, and each day he lit up our lives a little more.

Ava was too young to understand, but to her he’s just her baby brother.

At nine months, our brave boy tried his first prosthetic.

Initially we were worried he’d hate it.

Instead, he was all smiles, playing with toys and waving his new arm.

Now, Lachie wears his limb often and may eventually have it on full-time.

We’re so thankful to the limb clinic and Limbs 4 Kids organisation for everything they’ve done for us.

Lachie’s prosthetic is designed to fit an attachment for swimming, driving and playing guitar!

He might only have one arm, but Lachie’s future is limitless.

He’s already proved nothing will hold him back!

To see how you can support kids like Lachie, go to

www.limbs4kids.org.au

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 2 – 14 January, 2016

What is amniotic band syndrome?

 ➜ Amniotic band syndrome (ABS) occurs when the foetus becomes entangled in fibrous string-like amniotic bands in the womb, restricting blood flow and affecting the baby’s development.

➜ It can cause a number of birth defects, depending on which body parts are affected.

➜ If a band wraps around a limb, it can be amputated. A band across the baby’s face can cause a cleft lip and palate and in a lot of cases, the baby is also born with clubfeet.

➜ ABS occurs randomly. It’s not genetic, nor caused by anything a mother did during pregnancy. To date, no prenatal factors have been associated with ABS. It’s highly unlikely ABS will affect a future pregnancy.

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