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Health Spotlight | Preemies defy the odds … twice

Health Spotlight | Preemies defy the odds … twice

SAN DIEGO (Ivanhoe Newswire) — One in 10 babies born this year will be born prematurely.

That is when a baby is born before or at 37 weeks of pregnancy. They can develop problems with their lungs, hearts, and brains, issues they will have to deal with for their entire lives.

One woman born a preemie didn’t let that stop her from doing what most doctors said she could never do.

Forty-three years ago, Gabriela Gastelum was born at 25 weeks. She weighed just a pound.

“Since I was born so small, I had a grade three brain bleed,” Gastelum said.

Two shunts were connected at birth to a catheter that drained the fluid from her brain to around her abdomen. It was replaced six times. Gastelum was told she could never have kids.

Gastelum said, “There’s no way. If you do, it’s either you or the babies that are gonna survive.“

But for her, the desire to have a family was worth the risk.

“We had to go through IVF (in vitro fertilization). We ended up going through six cycles,” Gastelum said.

Finally, Gastelum was expecting twins. Then, at 30 weeks, “she was essentially comatose at that time, not responsive, not speaking,” said Dr. Thomas Beaumont, a neurosurgeon at University of California San Diego Health.

Fluid was building up in her brain again.

Beaumont said, “So, the pressure in her abdomen had gotten so high that it offset the pressure in her head, and the shunt no longer worked.”

The doctor had to put in an external shunt to drain the fluid.

“We were able to insert a needle into the shunt valve and take off a large volume of cerebral spinal fluid that allowed her really to wake up almost instantaneously over the next 60 to 90 minutes,” Beaumont said.

Two weeks later, it was safe to deliver the babies by C-section. Babies Liyah and Natalia came with a surprise.

Beaumont said, “The second twin was born with that shunt catheter in her hand.”

The old shunt in Gastelum that was too risky to remove during pregnancy – was removed by Liyah! 

Gastelum said, “And I was like, ‘Oh, my God. That was causing all that issue.’”

One twin stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit for 56 days, the other, 107 days.

The family now is all home healthy, happy and ready to roll.

A few weeks after giving birth, Gastelum needed to have a new shunt put in. This revision was also performed by Beaumont and his team. 

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor, Matt Goldschmidt, Videographer.

This story was prepared with a script from Ivanhoe Newswire. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.