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A Special Place for One of Life's Most Significant Events

Making a big difference for a tiny patient

Tracy Francis

Making a big difference for a tiny patient Imagine a tiny, moving, unborn baby girl in her mother’s womb. Now imagine precisely inserting a needle through the womb and into the umbilical cord—not once but seven times—to perform delicate, life-saving blood transfusions on the baby. It’s hard to believe it can be done. But thanks to Scottsdale Healthcare, Tracy and Dan Francis have a healthy, happy, energetic toddler named Elizabeth to prove it. “She wouldn’t be here without the excellent doctors, nurses, blood blank and people at Scottsdale Healthcare,” says Tracy. Elizabeth’s blood was incompatible with her mother’s because of a blood disorder. As a result, Tracy’s blood cells actively destroyed Elizabeth’s blood cells, leaving the unborn baby severely anemic. To save the baby’s life, a Scottsdale Healthcare team of maternal-fetal experts, including Karrie Francois, MD and Michael Foley, MD, conducted serial percutaneous umbilical blood samplings (PUBS) and a fetal intravascular transfusions (FIT) in utero. During the PUBS procedures, an ultrasound was used to guide placement of a needle into a blood vessel in the baby’s umbilical cord. A sample of blood was taken from the umbilical cord and analyzed to determine the amount of blood that needed to be transfused into the baby. Next, concentrated blood cells were transfused into the baby through a needle inserted into the umbilical cord (FIT procedures). After the transfusion, the umbilical cord blood sampling was repeated to ensure the baby’s blood levels were adequate. Because tiny Elizabeth sometimes moved in utero during these procedures, the team turned to a skilled anesthesiologist to administer a slight amount of sedation to the baby. “There were a couple times when the baby was so anemic, we didn’t know if she’d survive,” recalls Tracy, who spent two months at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center while her baby underwent constant monitoring and seven PUBS and FIT procedures. Elizabeth, who was born about two months early and weighed just 3.9 pounds, spent nearly a month in the medical center’s Level III neonatal intensive care unit, the highest certification available from the Arizona Perinatal Trust. “It was a very scary time. But from the moment I arrived, the care was just phenomenal for me, my baby and my family,” says Tracy, noting that her questions were always answered and staff members paid attention to her desires—including supporting her wish to breastfeed Elizabeth. Not surprisingly, she keeps in touch with several of the nurses who cared for her and Elizabeth and can’t resist bringing the now-toddler by for occasional visits. “I think of them as my extended family,” says Tracy.

 “I can’t say enough good things about the people at Scottsdale Healthcare.”

For more information about our Maternity Services at Osborn and Shea Medical Centers or to schedule a tour please call 480-882-4636.