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03 / 03 / 2008 - Baby`s amazing survival story
Parents Ben and Nardine Brazil with baby Millie. Picture: David Caird
MONTHS before she was even born, Millie Brazil's life had already been saved by a modern medical wonder inside her mother's womb.
At 20 weeks' gestation, just 15cm and still developing, Millie was given a blood transfusion in a desperate attempt to save her from a rare fatal blood condition.
Her body was so small it took just two teaspoons of healthy blood to fill half her blood system.
And the Mercy Hospital for Women procedure was so successful Millie was born after 40 weeks on February 18, with no further complications and completely healthy.
It was a world away from the terrifying days in October when parents Nardine and Ben Brazil were so petrified they tried to convince themselves there was no pregnancy to avoid the reality of losing their first child.
"In the last week we have had nice little moments together where I've relayed the whole story to her," Ms Brazil said.
"I was devastated. It took a lot to comprehend that she was that unwell.
"I just tuned out and for a week I was not pregnant in my mind.
"It was at the point when her movements were becoming more recognised but I was trying to ignore her because I did not want to allow myself to go through that.
"Luckily, I did not have time to do a great deal of reading about it until after the transfusions."
Early in her pregnancy Ms Brazil contracted parvovirus, which in turn caused severe anaemia in her unborn child.
Anaemia led to the much rarer hydrops fetalis, a condition that caused a build-up of fluid in her bloodstream and would have killed her within days.
It is treated in less than a handful of Victorian babies a year and was picked up in Millie's case only because a routine 20-week ultrasound showed a massive build-up of fluid beneath her skin, in her cavities and heart.
The next day obstetrician Mark Teoh used an ultrasound to guide a long needle through Ms Brazil's uterus into Millie's 300g body to find her liver.
There Dr Teoh found the biggest available vein - the intra hepatic umbilical vein, less than 2mm and moving - into which he injected 10ml of healthy blood.
Maternal fetal medicine consultant Alexis Shub, who first diagnosed Millie's condition, said the infection was so bad the operation had to be undertaken before the results of tests could confirm the problem.
"It was very serious and without treatment she would certainly have died," Dr Shub said.
"We don't get that many chances to make such a big difference so it's great when we get to do that."
Dr Teoh, part of the medical team to first use in utero surgery to save Victorian unborn twins with shared blood vessel in 2006, said the delicate procedure took just 10 minutes but would make a lifetime of difference.
For the next two days Mr and Ms Brazil did not know if their unborn child had survived it.
"Going through the procedure for me was harrowing; for Nardine it was excruciating," Mr Brazil said.
Parvovirus does not normally lead to such serious complications.