An expectant mother’s journey to surgery for baby with Spina Bifida

Published 4:15 pm Thursday, May 14, 2020

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Blue or pink, boy or girl?
As the ultrasound began, curiosity of whether the baby would be a boy or girl swirled. A gender reveal party planned.
When Angelica “Brooke” Presnell went to find out the gender of her unborn child, she never expected the news she would get.
“When I went to find out the gender, the ultrasound technician kept me in there for about 10 minutes, and told me the baby’s legs were not positioned under its bottom,” she said. “She wasn’t able to see, so she went and got the doctor. When the doctor came in, he said that they were worried about the baby’s anatomy. So, they sent me back to blood work and then sent me back for a second scan.”
Presnell described that during this scan a diagnosis was revealed.
“During the second scan, the baby jumped, and they got a picture of the spine,” she said. “At the lower part of the spine was the MMC sac. And that’s when they told me it was Spina Bifida.”
Presnell’s baby was diagnosed with Myelomeningocele, or MMC, which is a severe form of Spina Bifida. This is a congenital birth defect that affects the spine and spinal cord. It affects one in every 1,000 babies.
Presnell recalled the initial denial of her child’s diagnosis.
“I was sad, I felt like I was in denial,” she said. “I know it sounds weird, but I had two healthy baby girls before.”
After the diagnosis, the doctor also expressed concern over the unborn child’s brain. It was decided that she would be sent to a high risk obstetrician, or OB.
After the appointment, she said the gravity of it all sunk in.
“I think the reality of it hit once I got out to my car,” Presnell said.
At the high risk doctor, another ultrasound was done, along with more images being taken of the spine. This is when it was revealed that the initial sac on the spine, seen during the previous ultrasound, had grown. There was also concern and question regarding the unborn-baby’s lack of movement. Additionally, it was revealed that the unborn child has hindbrain herniation, from pressure pulling the cerebellum down, as well as ventricles in the brain enlarged with fluid.
Presnell, who was revealed to be having a baby girl, was referred to the Fetal Care Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio for possible fetal surgery. The other possible route was early termination. Presnell has chosen surgery.
“I didn’t want to do an early termination, because I feel if I have a chance at all for her to have this fixed, at all or any kind of medical thing I can do to make her life better, I didn’t want to do that,” she said. “She’s my baby. I made her. I love her.”
Presnell is going for a consultation in Cincinnati next week for the surgery, which is a two-day process in which a team of surgeons go into the uterus and work to close the opening on the baby’s back while still in the womb. If she is approved for surgery, she will go in at 25 weeks for the procedure, followed by bed rest in Ohio for the duration of her pregnancy and the delivery of the child.
While Presnell is in Ohio, her boyfriend and two daughters will be here in Tennessee due to childcare needs and him working. Without Presnell’s income to help support her family, she has set up a GoFundMe page to anyone who can help with expenses for her extended stay, and to help her family while she is gone. Additionally, she said at this time she doesn’t have many baby items.
For those wanting to help Presnell, you can find her GoFundMe at You can also contact her on her Facebook page, which is under the name Brooke Presnell.
Despite everything, Presnell and her family are excited to meet their baby girl, already brainstorming names. Presnell also has a message for other expectant moms who have this diagnosis.
“It’s tough to hear it at first,” she said. “But, don’t think the worst just yet, because technology is so advanced now from when they first discovered Spina Bifida. There is so much they can do to help your baby and give them a better life. It’s okay, we will get through this.”

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