On August 30, 2011, Melinda Guido entered the world at 24 weeks via cesarean section and became the topic of prime time discussion. Not only was she premature but held the distinction of being the 2rd smallest baby born in the U.S. at a mere 9 ounces, the size of a soda can. In medical terms, Melinda is considered a very low birth weight (VLBW) infant who weighed less than 3 pounds at birth. The survival rate for VLBW babies has increased from 24 to 41 percent. Most premature deliveries occur as a result of the patient breaking her water or going into spontaneous labor. This was not the case with Melinda. Her mother had high blood pressure and kidney disease which complicated her pregnancy. A decision was made to do a cesarean section because the baby was not receiving enough oxygen. Without the c. section it would most likely die.
Premature babies are born at an alarming rate of one-half million per year and with an annual cost of $26 billion dollars. Melinda’s parents worked as a cashier and a cook in a restaurant. Her mother’s pregnancy was covered by a public form of insurance for the poor. This was their first pregnancy and they pleaded with their physician to save their baby’s life. Statistically, the long-term prognosis for VDLW babies is poor. The national media was flooded with experts weighing in on the parent’s decision to save Melinda’s life. Discussions from medical ethicists around the country debated as to whether technology and intervention should have been done, given Melinda’s increased risk for future health problems. Dr. Rangasamy Ramanathan, chief of the neonatology department at a county hospital was quoted in a LA Times article as saying “doctors across the nation often let babies die who weigh less than 400 grams.”
The story of Melinda is reminiscent of a 2009 People Magazine article, entitled “When Miracle Babies Grow Up” that describes the lives of 6 former preemies who have grown up and attended college. All six students were born at 27 weeks with the most premature born at 23 weeks. (Please see my blog, entitled Miraculous Babies.)
Should the doctors have saved Melinda’s life? You be the judge. In the meantime, let us pray for Melinda’s continued success. Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.