Swollen Misfortune

31 May

Few weeks ago, someone sent me an SMS seeking an appointment. She is a first-time pregnant woman who wants to discuss the results of her second ultrasound findings. She told me her baby was found out to have hydrops and she wants to hear my opinion. Well, that was kinda flattering, but the person she really needed to see is a perinatologist (an obstetrician who subspecialized on very problematic pregnancies, and this pregnancy is one example). Nevertheless, being a neonatologist myself, I may also be able to give her my piece, though on a limited span.

I saw her after few days, together with her mother, and before they sat, she handed me the ultrasound findings. It’s true, the baby was visualized to be hydropic (generalized swelling) on ultrasound. As I shifted my eyes from the ultrasound result to her face, she was already on the verge of tears. You can see there the longing to hear a different opinion, that perhaps the ultrasound result was erroneous, that the baby will still become normal eventually. But I am not someone who will nurture that false hopes she was brewing. I told her that a single ultrasound finding is not definitive. The baby has to be serially monitored and the best person to do this better be a perinatologist. She heeded and went straight to the perinatologist immediately after we ended our conversation.

Few days ago, while attending to the delivery of a baby whose placenta separated totally from the uterus, I was notified that the mother with a hydropic baby was scheduled for cesarean delivery at seven in the evening of the same day. I asked why the preterm termination of pregnancy, the resident reckoned the mother already began to have abdominal cramps (labor pains). This was the 26th week of pregnancy (panic mode alerted! Baby is extremely premature). If baby was premature, then there’s not much problem; if hydropic, there’s not much problem. But if you combine both prematurity and hydrops, that’s too much of a trouble. I almost swallowed my testicles that rushed up my throat upon hearing the news of imminent delivery later in the day.

The operation commenced. Upon opening the uterus, the amniotic fluid was so voluminous. This must be stretching the uterus beyond limits that prompted it to contract and expel the baby. After almost four liters of amniotic fluid was siphoned, the baby was next. The baby’s feet was first to be delivered. It looks big for a 26 weeks old baby, more like that of a 34 weeks. Then the body followed. There was almost difficulty of delivering the baby as the abdomen was too distended and tense, and so was the head. The skin was so taut from abdomen to the face, his lips were almost like a fish mouth in appearance. Generally, the baby looks like a victim of drowning. She was gasping for air. I immediately intubated her to assist her breathing as her chest will have difficulty in rising.


I took picture of the baby and showed it to the mother as I can’t let baby have skin-to-skin contact with the mother, while the nurse rushed baby to the incubator at the adjacent nursery. I provided mechanical ventilatory support but the baby wasn’t improving much. I showed baby after attending to her immediate needs to her lola. I asked them to provide surfactant that may help baby get better, but they were reluctant as they think it is an extraordinary measure anymore to do heroic measures. They were already resigned that the baby will not make it; and if ever, will grow up impaired.

Maybe I was wrong to ever ask them to procure some medicine, or they were right all along not to continue providing baby’s needs. I did some work-ups to help me identify the probable cause of baby’s hydrops. Hydrops is usually called by a problematic baby’s heart. Because of it’s inability to pump blood well, the fluid gets retained and thus explains why the baby’s entire body swells, including body cavities damming up with fluids. Another most common cause of hydrops is anemia of severe degree. Because of anemia, the body lacks adequate oxygen delivery. Baby’s heart now have to work more than double time to cope up with the body’s demand (just like in a congestive heart failure), and likewise ending up generally swollen. For this particular baby, her blood work-up showed a very, marked anemia. I wish I could do further test and identify what could be the cause of the anemia but then I was limited. I could transfuse blood to reverse the condition, it could have been easy. But there was a major road block. Parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Oh, I was doomed.., nothing further).

Five hours from birth, baby’s condition still never improved. Her heart already showed declining function… The heartbeat and oxygen saturation keeps on falling… her color started to turn darker… I asked them if they have some practice of baptizing baby or a minor before death, they said it was up to them to pray for the baby. I respected their religious view. Six hours from birth, baby finally succumbed.


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11 responses to “Swollen Misfortune

  1. impatientlywaiting

    May 31, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Wow thats really sad…

  2. Danny Haszard

    May 31, 2012 at 7:57 am

    You are courageous for trying to save this tiny one’s life and boldly posting the experience so others can learn.

    Cults do get babies killed!

    50 times as many men,women,children have been killed by the Watchtower society ban on *whole* blood transfusions than at Jonestown kool-aid mass murders.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses *blood transfusion confusion*.
    In 2012 God’s will and scripture got nothing to do with the Jehovah’s Witnesses position on use of blood products.
    It is 100 percent what will play out in a secular court of law as to the parent Watchtower being held liable for deaths.
    Most Jehovah’s Witnesses rushed to the ER with massive blood loss will scream NO BLOOD right up to their last breath,The shocker is they can NOW have most of the blood components that will pull them through,but they are so indoctrinated that blood is forbidden that they can’t comprehend the loopholes.
    The Watchtower has drilled and grilled us that our STAND ON BLOOD IS NON NEGOTIABLE.
    The loopholes that allow blood usage is to save the Watchtower corporation money from blood death liability suits.
    This is a truly evil organization that would sacrifice tens of thousands of men,women,children for the almighty dollar.
    The blood products ban has been in force since 1945 the buzz today about it being a *personal conscience matter* and the hope of new medical advances like artificial blood don’t undo all those who have past perished.
    The New York city based Watchtower sect is concerned foremost with liability lawsuits for wrongful death.They know that if they repeal the ban on *whole* blood transfusion,that it will open the door for legal examination of all the thousands who have died since 1945.

    Danny Haszard FMI (Jehovah’s Witness blood reform site learn what you can do)

    • drclintonb

      May 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      having hydrops at a premature age is already a double risk factor and survival is nil. Even before the baby was delivered, they were already resigned to the fact that baby will not make it. Having that prejudice, they did not opt anymore to be aggressive with baby’s management. No matter how much effort I exert if there will be no support from the parent’s side, the effort will just be in vain.

  3. Suzanne

    May 31, 2012 at 8:33 am

    So sad you had to face this added handicap in your heroic efforts to save this child.
    Please see [Associated Jehovah’s Witnesses for Reform on Blood] for information about the realities of the JW blood rules. Note in particular the complicated exceptions for allowing blood fractions under various circumstances. The average JW doesn’t understand “the rules.” The sad truth about this “doctrine” is that the leadership of this religion has been trying to find a way to back out of this teaching somehow. The list of fractions adds up to 100%!

    • drclintonb

      May 31, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      thank you for this wonderful reply. I have been hearing before that there are exceptions to the rule regarding transfusion but then, this link you gave me will be helpful in my future dealings with other JWs. Much appreciated.

  4. #acmtix

    May 31, 2012 at 8:42 am

    so sad that stories like this are still around…

    • drclintonb

      May 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm

      they happen still, yes, it is so unfortunate.

  5. DiaaK

    May 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Bless you for your efforts.

    • drclintonb

      May 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      thank you but then I didn’t do much. thanks for reading.

    • drclintonb

      June 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      thank you so much

  6. Zen M. Shawn Dean

    June 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Dear Dr. Clinton B,
    My name is Zen Dean and I am the Director of AJWRB. I would like to speak with you, perhaps on Skype. I have procedures that will help you save the lives of Jehovah’s Witness patients. I feel strongly that if you had spoken to me during this terrible torturous encounter, this baby would still be alive. My number is 562-257-7525. I am in Long Beach, CA, USA. You may also email me at or I am an expert in communicating with JWs as I was raised one. I have been successful in getting even devout JWs to accept blood for themselves and their families. You should never be in this situation again, and I will make it my mission to make sure of that. Thank you for posting this article. You are the only voice this child has ever had unfortunately. Thank you for speaking for her.
    Zen Dean


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