Losing Laura

Diagnosis: Severe Congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation (CCAM)

By Laura's Mom

In the wake of the horrific murder of Dr. George Tiller and the unjustified and vicious portrayal of him by some in the media as a monster who relished performing abortions, I just had to tell my own personal story about the kind and compassionate man who helped me several years ago.

Several years ago, I was happily anticipating the birth of my second child, who was very much planned and very much wanted. During a routine ultrasound, something was wrong - a bubble of some kind was noticed in the gastric region of my baby. My ob/gyn told me not to worry and that it most likely was nothing more than a gas bubble that would pass through and that a repeat ultrasound would be done in 2 weeks.

Of course, I did worry, and with good cause. At the follow-up ultrasound, I received devastating news. It seemed my baby was suffering from a very rare birth defect of the lungs. This defect resulted in the complete malformation of the left lung. The bubble that the earlier sonogram detected was actually one of the many cystic masses that made up my baby's malformed lungs. Since lungs are the last organ to develop, this could not be detected any earlier and had only just then become apparent. In addition, the right lung was not developing as expected either, although it wasn't affected to the degree of the other one.

The baby's heart was being severely compressed over to the opposite side of where it should have been because of the increasing size and pressure of the cystic masses. I was told that the situation was very grave. Without functioning lungs, there would be no way for the baby to survive post term. There was also a strong indication that the baby could succumb to heart failure prior to term because of the crushing pressure of the cystic masses.

I sought the advice of several well-known perinatologists in my area to get second and even third opinions. But it was the same prognosis each time. I was told that I had two options - either to let nature take its course or to end the pregnancy. The days that follow are kind of a blur to me now. I was devastated to know that my precious baby was not going to make it and quite possibly suffer in the process, and I was helpless to do anything. I could not imagine continuing to carry a child possibly for several more months to term, all the while knowing that there was no hope for survival and just waiting for the inevitable to happen. I was already going through emotional hell, and it seemed pointless to put both myself and my baby through any more needless suffering.

The reason we have all this technology is so that we can make informed decisions. So I decided that if I was going to lose my baby, I wanted to do so on my own terms; and I was referred to Dr. Tiller's clinic in Wichita. Since I was now past the 24 week cut-off for a termination in my state, I would have to travel there to seek the help that I needed now. Dr. Tiller and his staff were so wonderful to my husband and me. They were more compassionate than any of the doctors at home, who seemed more interested in documenting every aspect of my personal tragic situation for "an interesting case study" and took the attitude of "You can just try again when this is over."

Dr. Tiller let me talk and cry and he listened to my every word through my tears. He held my hand and hugged me when I needed it; and he really cared about the emotional pain I was going through. I kept telling him that my main concern was for my baby to go peacefully, as I was not concerned for my own comfort. He assured me that the process would be painless for the baby, and would very closely mimic a miscarriage.

There was another couple there the same week going through a similar experience and he encouraged us to talk to each other and support each other through our ordeal. His facility was literally lined with hundreds of framed letters from people from all over who had gone through the very same experiences thanking him and his staff for helping them when they needed it most. It helped to know that I was not alone and that support still means so much to me to this day.

Time does heal all wounds, but there is not a day that goes by that I don't pray for and mourn the child that is not here with me. I am grateful for the blessings that I do have in my life; and I am grateful that there was a man like Dr. Tiller who was there for me when I needed him. I will always remember him as a dedicated physician who truly cared about his patients.


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A Silent Sorrow: Pregnancy Loss

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When Pregnancy Fails: Families Coping with Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death

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Pregnancy After a Loss: A Guide to Pregnancy After a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death