May 09, 2022
Imagine going into labor at 19 weeks and being told you have two options: “expectant management, where you might go into spontaneous labor, or medically-induced abortion because your body won’t keep you pregnant and the babies aren’t viable.”
It was August 20, 2021, and fresh from a Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine fellowship and three weeks after joining the staff at Sunflower Neonatology Associates in Overland Park, Dr. Jamesia Donato called her new practice for a second opinion.
“I wouldn’t accept that,” she says.”
Rushed to Overland Park Regional Medical Center, Michael Muench, M.D., a board-certified and fellowship trained Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist, performed a complex surgery to preserve Dr. Donato’s pregnancy and save her babies’ lives. For the young neonatologist, it was a situation she was painfully familiar with—remarkably, it had happened to her own mother in Atlanta.
“Never ever, ever in a million years would have I imagined this could repeat itself in my own family,” Dr. Donato says. “A rare condition and I was reliving in my own shoes, what happened my mom decades ago when she gave birth to my brother.”
Dr. Muench performed a high-risk ultrasound followed by cervical cerclage, a treatment for keeping the cervix closed during pregnancy to prevent premature birth due to a weakened cervix.
“He told my husband and me that this is going to be hard. But you’re worth it and these babies are worth it and viable,’” Dr. Donato recalls. “The end result was that it gave me three-and-a-half weeks, making the babies truly viable. They still came early and were sick but were an absolute miracle.”
Dr. Donato spent September 21 to October 11 on Antepartum, a specialized unit for high-risk mothers, with the goal of keeping mom safely pregnant for as long as possible. She went into labor in the early morning of October 11 and Amy Sorrells, MD, FACOG, a board-certified OB/GYN, performed an urgent C-section on Dr. Donato at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.
“My hubby was behind the operating room curtain and Dr. Sorrells was so good to him, making him feel very involved, and calmly walked him through every step,” Dr. Donato says. “Those doctors, all of them, saved our babies’ lives. I truly feel like God was working through each one of the hands in that standing room only operating room.”
The fragile babies were rushed into the Level III NICU and placed in isolettes. “Baby A”, Nala was born weighing only 420 grams; “Baby B” Lola, born a minute after her sister, weighed 490 grams.
“It’s difficult to describe the feelings you have when treating a patient with this level of rare and significant complication to save a baby’s life,” Dr. Parrott says. “In this case, knowing it’s a fellow colleague of yours made it even more emotional and impactful during the delivery. The Donato’s were thrown into an overwhelming whirlwind of uncertainty, and handled it with grace. I was honored to be part of this experienced team of specialists and caregivers to help lessen the chaos and bring their babies into the world.”
Dr. Donato recalls the difficulty she and her husband experienced as they watched so many other families leave the NICU unit.
“From my room we could see parents, loading their babies into their cars and exiting the circle drive to go home,” she says. “We wondered when that would happen for us and our daughters. My original due date, February 10, 2022, came and went and finally, on March 8, the twins were healthy enough to be bundled up for the emotional trip home with us. What a glorious day. And to celebrate my first Mother’s Day with them—my faith tells me that God gives the hardest battles to the strongest soldiers.”
Although Dr. Donato admits this is one of the most challenging life moments she’ll probably ever have, she knows the journey that led her to giving birth to the micropreemies has instilled in her endless empathy and compassion for future patients. “I’ve got you, I’ve lived it, here’s my experience. It’s really hard stuff. But we’ll get through this.”