THE sight of her four-year-old daughter playing with friends leaves Emma Vignes speechless with gratitude – because this is no ordinary child.
Little Maisy Vignes was born with no blood in her body.
Doctors believe the little girl’s entire blood supply was absorbed by her mother during the pregnancy.
But Maisy not only survived, much to the amazement of the medics – this bright little girl made a miraculous recovery, met all her developmental milestones and is now attending primary school in her home town of Tramore, Co Waterford.
Yet the medical team which cared for her initially feared that Maisy, who was born six weeks premature in December 2009, would be brain-damaged after being starved of oxygen in the womb as a result of the rare condition which left her bloodless.
Hotel receptionist and mother-of-two Emma, 31, and her husband, Mook, a graphic designer, had no idea that this was coming during what was mostly a happy and trouble-free first pregnancy.
But at 34 weeks, the young mum-to-be became worried after noticing a lack of movement from the baby she was carrying in her womb.
She reported her concerns to the hospital and had a check-up the next day after which her medical team decided to keep her in for observation.
“I had a headache and my face was swollen so they kept me in. I wasn’t feeling much movement, and Maisy’s heart rate was almost non-existent,” she recalls.
Then, with nearly six weeks to go before the birth Emma’s doctors decided to carry out an emergency caesarean.
When Maisy was born, recalls Emma, she knew something was wrong.
“When she came out, she was porcelain-white; there was no movement and no cries. I remember lying on the operating table and seeing the back of her head as she was whisked away.”
Maisy was brought to the neo-natal ward.
A short time later, when medical staff tried to take a sample of her blood they realised the infant’s veins contained only a plasma-like substance.
“There was no blood as we would know it,” says Emma. “In some way Maisy’s entire blood supply had been absorbed into my bloodstream.
“The doctors didn’t really know what had happened and because she had no blood circulating around her body, it was feared she would be left brain-damaged.
“When she was born she also had a small hole in her heart, which later closed up by itself.”
The frail infant was given two blood transfusions on the night she was born, and later a platelet transfusion. The first blood transfusion was administered through her umbilical cord.
After spending 17 days in intensive care, Maisy was discharged on Christmas morning. Her condition had left doctors baffled.
“The doctors were as confused as I was – they’d never seen or heard of this in medical history,” recalls Emma.
“I was told that sometimes, when something like this happens, there may have been a trauma to the stomach, for example if I fell over and landed on my belly or had been in a car crash, but I had an amazingly good pregnancy,” she recalls.
Her doctors speculated that the condition may have resulted from a rupture in the uterus, she says. “but no one really knows.
“Maisy is now being held up as a case study for student doctors,” her mother says.
“There was a case of a child born in the UK with very little blood. There was a case of a child with a haemoglobin level of five, but Maisy had a haemoglobin level of zero – and she survived.”
Baby Maisy was put on a regime of multi-vitamins and iron supplements and had six monthly check-ups. It soon became clear that she was producing blood like a normal baby.
Those first months were a worrying time for her parents as they waited to see whether their little girl would suffer any lasting effects , but, says Emma proudly, Maisy continually reached, and even exceeded, all her developmental milestones.
“Her first word was ‘Dadd’a and she spoke it at 10 months. That was a huge relief to us because it meant that she was understanding and copying speech as she should do.”
Maisy started in Junior Infants’ class at the town’s Holy Cross Primary National School this September aged four, following two successful years in preschool and Montessori school.
“She is very capable and able for school and she loves it,” says her mum.” Maisy is a miracle and we are so grateful to the doctors and nurses at Waterford Regional Hospital.”
Throughout Emma’s second pregnancy with Maisie’s brother Ellis – now five months old – Emma worried.
“However, the doctors assured me that what happened with Maisy was very rare and that lightning rarely strikes the same place twice.”
Maisy, who celebrates her fifth birthday in December, has continued to thrive. “Now everything is fine – she is a very happy little girl. You’d never know she had such an amazing arrival into the world.
“Looking at her now, it’s hard to believe she has overcome so much.
Looking at her now leaves me speechless when we see how happy and healthy she is – and how deeply grateful we are for her.”
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