Mom Reveals Girl Died 3 Times During Birth & Her Newborn Sister Could Help Treat Her

Anja McDonald Photography

Harper
Anja McDonald Photography

During labor we need to be prepared for when our birth plans have to be thrown out the window, especially if our delivery is facing some serious complications. This was exactly what happened for one mom from Perth, Australia, who had her labor quickly spiral into chaos as she faced every parent's nightmare scenario.

Cheyanne Lee Few's daughter Harper died three times during her delivery because of a placental abruption but was amazingly resuscitated each time. The little girl lived, but as Cheyanne now shares, her chaotic delivery has changed her daughter's quality of life forever. Now Cheyanne is speaking out so that other parents whose newborns end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will know to never give up -- even if things don't go according to plan.

  • Days before Cheyanne gave birth, she received a routine blood transfusion -- and that's when everything changed.

    Harper
    Facebook/Cheyanne Lee Few

    Speaking with CafeMom, Cheyanne says that on August 3, 2017, she went in for a routine blood transfusion just days before she was meant to be induced with her daughter Harper. 

    "Despite the successful blood transfusion and monitoring of Harper at our appointment, 11 hours later I woke up to what felt like my water breaking," she says. "I jumped out of bed to only feel and see a pool of blood."

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  • Cheyanne had suffered from a placental abruption, a medical rarity where the placenta separates from the womb.

    Harper
    Cheyanne Lee Few

    According to the Mayo Clinic, a placental abruption can become deadly when the baby's oxygen is decreased or blocked and the mother often starts to bleed heavily. Most cases occur suddenly and, if immediate action isn't taken, it can be deadly for both baby and mom.

    That meant that Cheyanne only had minutes to act. She was quickly rushed to the hospital by ambulance and an emergency C-section was performed to save her life and her baby's.

    "Thankfully the 30-plus doctors/nurses did everything in their power to do exactly that," she tells CafeMom. But the lifesaving surgery was not without its complications. "During the emergency procedure Harper died three times due to the placenta completely separating from the womb, which caused a loss of blood and oxygen to her vitals," her mom shares.

    The strong little one survived each time through the use of adrenaline and "twice with CPR." Her mom also suffered and had to be resuscitated "due to the total six liters of blood I lost."

  • Both Harper and Cheyanne survived Harper's birth, but the trauma of her delivery meant that she had to be kept in the NICU indefinitely.

    Harper
    Cheyanne Lee Few

    After Harper survived her birth, doctors quickly attached the little one to a breathing ventilator, "a gastronomy tube for feeding, two drips, hourly suctioning of the mouth to prevent her from choking on her secretions, a cooling bed to control her temperature and numerous amounts of other cords to help her function effectively," her mom explains.

    "Due to the immense damage to her tiny brain, she was struggling with several seizures a day. Her organs and liver were also not working at the time, due to her unexpected arrival at 36-and-a-half weeks," Cheyanne continues. It would be another four days before Cheyanne or her boyfriend, Michael Craig, could hold their baby. 

    An MRI scan showed that Harper had suffered significant brain damage, which doctors explained to the couple meant that their daughter had a very slim chance to survive.

    "Michael and I now had to make the decision to pull out her breathing tube knowing there was only a very slim chance she would be able to breathe on her own," Cheyanne remembers. "No parent should ever have to do this, especially one that is so precious and their life has barely begun at five days old!"

  • The parents decided to remove their daughter's breathing tube two days later, a choice that devastated them.

    Harper and Cheyanne
    Cheyanne Lee Few

    "The nurse advised us that her stats were dropping quickly -- we had an hour or so at the most," Cheyanne says. "We held her close and whispered endless words of love, cherishing what we thought were our last minutes together."

    But then a miracle happened. 

    Harper kept breathing for another six hours and, even more amazingly, she survived the night without her breathing tube. "Nothing could stop the fight in her. We honestly couldn’t believe it!" her mother says.

    The couple decided to change their focus from hoping their daughter would survive to advocating for her quality of life. A week later she was moved to Nursery 2 (a different level of the NICU for babies who need less serious care) where she continued to progress.

    "She slowly regulated her temperature, her seizure activity wasn’t occurring, she opened her eyes, she was no longer requiring suctioning of the mouth, her vocals started working and her breathing was strong," Cheyanne explains. "Nothing was stopping our precious girl from showing the world just how much strength she holds."

  • In total, Harper spent 22 days in the NICU. But there were complications among all of Harper's success.

    Harper and Cheyanne
    Cheyanne Lee Few

    While in the hospital, doctors warned Cheyanne and Michael that there was still a possibility that Harper would have a severe disability. She had a high risk for cerebral palsy, her low muscle tone could prevent her from walking or even sitting on her own, and she could still suffer from seizures. Worst of all, they were told that she will always suffer with her suck and swallow motor functions, meaning that Harper could choke on her own saliva.

    Cheyanne says that she and Michael were stunned by this diagnosis. "Denial... That’s all we could think," she says. "We held too much hope to see her improve the way she was to try and comprehend the possibility of these outcomes."

  • Eventually, Harper was able to surpass some of her ailments. But even though there has been progress, the road has been bumpy.

    It had been 14 months since Cheyanne and Michael brought their daughter home. And Harper has made great strides in her development. She no longer feeds through a tube, has gained muscle tone, and even her suck and swallow motor skills have progressed. 

    According to the family's GoFundMe, since leaving the hospital, Harper has officially been diagnosed with severe spastic dystonic quadriplegia, microcephaly and epilepsy. That means her quality of life can sometimes be a challenge. 

    "Imagine picking up a fork and once you grip the handle your whole body tenses up so tight that it completely locks up every single muscle, your toes are pointed so far that they resemble the perfect ballerina point and the grip of your clenched fists could rip the skin off your palms," her mother explained on their fundraising page. "It is gut wrenching to watch Harper endure this every single day without her brain letting her control the ability to stop this from occurring."

    The couple has a little hope for their daughter's future, though. Only four weeks ago, Cheyanne gave birth to a second daughter, Addison, whom the couple had hoped would be a stem cell donor match for their oldest child. Stem cell treatment could be "used to repair the damaged tissue in the brain. In patients with brain injuries or neurological disorders, the stem cells are able to bridge gaps and form newer neurons that repair the damage," Cheyanne tells us.

    The mom hopes that by storing the stem cells from Addison's umbilical cord they will hopefully be able to get Harper into a medical trial where doctors will be able to use the stem cells to repair damage to Harper's brain tissue. But for now, Cheyanne has been working with CellCare Australia to store and keep Addison's core blood free of charge. 

    "CellCare Australia have this amazing program at the moment that if you have a child and decide to store their cord blood who has a sibling with cerebral palsy, they will store the blood for up to 12 years for free," she tells us. "Crazy since we here willing to pay the normal costs of $1,400 a year to store her blood in the hope that Australia would start doing trials."

    Cheyanne had been hoping to travel to the US to get the treatment that her daughter desperately needs. But a recent call with a US doctor let her know that because of the proper temperature controls and safety controls needed to transport the core blood, it would most likely not be possible. 

    "I have complete faith in the protocols they use in terms of donor stem cells," Cheyanne says. "Australia is slowly getting there."

  • But for now, Cheyanne says that both of her daughters bring her so much light while they wait for their miracle treatment.

    The mom shares that if your child suffers from disabilities, the amount of research and information you'll find can be overwhelming. "Following a well-published page in regards to your child’s diagnosis is a great way to start," the mom says.  

    And she adds that for parentswho have a child in the NICU right now, it's completely normal to feel scared. "The NICU is a very foreign place in this world, or that was definitely the way we saw it -- something we never expected to experience!" she says. "We would hope no one has to share a birth story or an upbringing of their child like this. To all those parents out there that unfortunately do, hold on to every single bit of hope, because as we know it takes a tremendous amount of strength to be in your shoes. Keep fighting and never give up!” 

    In the end, Cheyanne says, Harper has been a blessing to their family. "Although there is still so many unknowns for Harper, we are so grateful to have our beautiful girl here with us today. She brings out the very best in our family and continues to make us stronger every single day!"
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