Preborn baby boy saves his mother's life

Brittany Jutila was 24 weeks pregnant when she found out she had stage two colon cancer, "Being 26 and pregnant with your first child and finding out you have colon cancer is... a lot." Brittany’s father very sadly died from colon cancer but because she is so young, cancer was never suspected. The doctors think the cancer went undetected for months or even years.

Brittany's obstetrician was doing a routine check, at 23 weeks gestation, on her baby, "She was just feeling the growth of my stomach, measuring to see how baby was doing, and she was pressing around and felt a little lump," says Brittany. "It didn't give me discomfort, but only when she pressed on it."

Dr. Erik Johnson (photographed with baby Carter), colorectal surgeon at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin, who operated on Brittany, said, "She was 24 weeks pregnant at that time, and that's right at the limit of when a baby can be born and live."

Facing an incredibly difficult situation, Brittany made the brave, compassionate and life-affirming decision to give her baby more time to develop. At 28 weeks, Dr. Johnson and a whole team of specialists at the medical centre, began a tedious and difficult three hour surgery to remove the tumour just inches from her baby.

The team of experts carefully removed her cantaloupe-sized tumour, four dozen lymph nodes and her appendix, without disturbing or hurting her growing baby boy, Carter. Dr. Johnson said, "We said a prayer beforehand and did the best we could, and it turned out very well."

Brittany said she is so thankful to “have amazing doctors” and “how everything turned out, honestly. I had total faith in them that they would get this and help me through every step of the way, which they did. They really did."

Despite having contractions in the hours after surgery, baby Carter was born healthy at full term. And because the cancer, thankfully, hadn't spread, Brittany didn't need chemo or radiation but doctors will continue to monitor her and Carter in the future for colon cancer.

At just one month old, five and a half pound baby Carter may have saved his mother's life long before he was born. Brittany describes Carter as “a bundle of joy.”

In the lead up to Christmas, Brittany said, "Definitely with the holidays coming up, even my family and all of us are just more thankful and blessed for me to be around and the baby to be here. We have a lot to be thankful for."

All of them must also be thankful for a baby that helped doctors find the cancer in the first place. Without Brittany’s routine pregnancy check – without baby Carter – the cancer may never have been detected.   

« Back to News