Monday, April 11, 2011

My baby saved my life

My baby saved my life: Mother's deadly bone marrow disease is cured by pregnancy

By Lucy Laing
Last updated at 12:26 AM on 10th April 2011

  • Mother-of-three was told people with her condition only had a life expectancy of two to five years
Enlarge   My hero: Ms Marton with her son Jason, who provided a miraculous boost to her immune system during her pregnancy
My hero: Ms Marton with her son Jason, who provided a miraculous boost to her immune system during her pregnancy

When Anna Marton was given just two years to live she was devastated.

She had been diagnosed with a deadly bone marrow defect, which doctors said couldn’t be cured.

Then she unexpectedly fell pregnant and doctors warned that giving birth could kill her - but she was determined to carry on with the pregnancy.

It was a decision that has miraculously ended up saving her life - as her baby son Jason has CURED her of the condition.

It has baffled doctors - but in Februrary,  Anna was finally given the all clear from the disease and can now live a normal life.

‘Jason really has been my miracle cure,’ said Anna, who lives with partner Tony Harman, 41, a kitchen fitter.

‘Even the doctors couldn’t explain it - it really is a miracle - and that's what I call him. 

There was no medicine to treat me - but my own baby cured me.’

Anna, 39, who lives in Rhu, near Glasgow, was diagnosed in February 2009 with myelofibrosis, a bone marrow defect that affects the body’s ability to produce red blood cells.

She had been suffering from unexplained bruising for several months before, which she at first put down to helping out on her local farm.
‘I just kept finding these bruises all over my body,’ she said. 

‘The slightest knock would turn me black and blue. I couldn’t really understand why it was happening, as I never remembered knocking myself.

‘At first I thought it was my outdoors lifestyle - I ride horses and help out on the local farm, so there is plenty of opportunity for knocks and bangs doing all that outdoors work. But then my gums started bleeding and I notcied cuts and bruises weren’t healing properly, so I thought that something might be wrong, and I was feeling exhausted all the time too.

‘I had the tests done at the haematology department of the local hospital so they could take a bone marrow sample.
'Tony came with me to get my results. It was the day before my 37th birthday and as soon as I saw the consultant’s face I knew immediately that it wasn’t good news.'

The test results revealed the devastating news that she had myelofibrosis, which meant that her body was no longer able to produce enough red blood cells. 

The rare condition was difficult to treat and the consultant told Anna that most patients don’t live more than two to five years after diagnosis.

‘I was absolutely devastated,’ admitted Anna, who has two other children Arran, 18, and Annabel, 13. 

‘It just seemed so surreal and I couldn’t really take anything in. It was only when I left the hospital that the reality of what the consultant had said hit me and I just burst into tears. I just kept thinking that I wouldn’t see my children grow up. I just couldn’t stop crying.’

Miracle: Jason's mother feared she would not get to see her son grow up, but was given the all-clear in February
Miracle: Jason's mother feared she would not get to see her son grow up, but was given the all-clear in February

There was nothing the doctors could do except monitor her condition and prescribe steroids to boost her blood count.  A bone marrow transplant was possible, but it only had a very slim chance of working.

She said: ‘The whole family had to have flu jabs and keep away from me if they had a cold or infection as my immune system was so low.  

'Without a cure for this disease, even the slightest knock or cut could lead to me having to go to hospital. I was terrified. I couldn’t go riding any more in case I fell. And every time my gums started bleeding I worried that I would bleed to death.
‘I had to spend most of my time indoors so that I didn’t come into contact with anyone.’

She didn’t want to tell her children about the fact that she could die, as she didn’t want to upset them.
‘I explained to them that doctors couldn’t cure my condition but that the worse case scenario was that I might need a bone marrow transplant,’ she said.
‘I didn’t want them worrying that they were going to lose me.’

Then in April 2009 she may the most remarkable discovery that she was pregnant.

‘I had missed a period and I put it down to my illness. I went to see the doctor and he agreed that it was probably due to depression and stress about my diagnosis,’ she said.

‘But something just kept nagging me in the back of my mind and a week later I went to buy a pregnancy test. I didn’t tell Tony about it because I was so sure that it was going to be negative.

'But then I did the test and up came two blue lines on the stick. I just kept staring at it, I couldn’t believe that it was actually positive. I had to do another test before I was actually convinced I was pregnant. I told Tony and the children and they were all thrilled.’

Ultrasound scans revealed that Anna's baby was thriving despite doctors fears it would worsen her condition
Ultrasound scans revealed that Anna's baby was thriving despite doctors fears it would worsen her condition
But the midwife at her GP practice was concerned and initially warned her that she could suffer fatal bleeding during the birth. But she was determined to go ahead with the pregnancy.

‘At first I thought there was no hope and that I was doomed, said Anna.
‘But then one of the doctors at the hospital said they would do everything they could to support me and they could give me drugs during the labour to try and stop any bleeding.
‘I just had to put my trust in the doctors and hope for the best.’

Anna’s pregnancy progressed smoothly and at each scan she could see her baby was thriving.
‘He kicked a lot and moved around, which was so reassurring,’ she said.
‘And at each scan I could see him growing well which was a relief.’
Baby Jason was born in November 2009, weighing a healthy 6Ib2, after just three hours labour.

‘It was such a relief when I finally held him in my arms. The doctors had told me they couldn’t carry out a caesarian operation as it was too risky to me as I could have bleed to death if anything had gone wrong, but luckily the labour went smoothly and Jason was born naturally. 

The doctors had been on standby ready to give me blood transfusions, but it turned out they weren’t needed as it was such an easy birth.

‘As soon as I’d given birth and he was in my arms I looked down at him and it was hard to think that I probably wouldn’t live to see him grow up. it was just devastating to think that he wouldn’t remember me.’

But then in February last year, 12 months after her initial diagnosis, something amazing happened.
Anna went back to hospital for a check up and it was then that doctors made a remarkable discovery. There was no sign of the disease.

Doctors then sent the bone marrow samples to 25 different doctors just to check the results, but they had all agreed it was clear.
‘I couldn’t believe it, and neither could anyone else,’ said Anna.  

‘Just a year ago I’d been given just two years to live. And now I was being told that the disease had completely gone from my body. It was unbelievable.’

‘The doctors had never seen a case like it before, and they told me that somehow, the pregnancy hormones had helped my body heal itself.’

Pregnant women produce an increased amount of the male hormone androgen and some studies suggest this can make symptoms less severe.  

But unbelievably, in her case, it had provided a complete cure.

In February she went for a final check up, and the results were still clear. There is no sign of the disease returning, and she can now live a normal life.

‘Everyone was baffled, but now thankfully I can just get on with being a mum,’ said Anna.  

‘My baby healed me - and to me, that's a miracle - and when he’s old enough I will tell him how he saved my life.’






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