During personal health crisis, mother refused to abort twins

Fri, Oct 21st 2016 01:00 pm
Special to WNYC
Older brother Jay DeWitt hangs out with his brothers, Theo and Luke. (Courtesy of Katy DeWitt)
Older brother Jay DeWitt hangs out with his brothers, Theo and Luke. (Courtesy of Katy DeWitt)

During October, those of us who cherish God's gift of life prayerfully look to both heaven and earth for encouragement and inspiration. We pray, celebrate successes and share stories that encourage us in the cultural struggles we face.

This is such a story. What follows is a collaboration of heaven and earth to preserve the life of a mother and bring to life two baby boys.

On Jan. 12, Katy DeWitt, the 32-year-old wife of Matt, and mother of a toddler, Jay, went to the basement to do wash, the last task of her long day. Her husband was working. Nineteen weeks pregnant with twin boys she had already named Theodore and Luke, Katy arrived at the top of the stairs winded, with a severe pain in her right side.

At the advice of her mother, she decided to head to the ER of Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo where she, her husband and her mother were employees. No one was prepared for what followed. Katy's family, steeped for generations in pro-life teaching, was suddenly put to a test of faith and commitment like never before.

Tests showed, shockingly, a hemorrhage in her liver, dropping her hemoglobin to life-threatening levels for her and her babies. The bleeding had to be stopped. There was no local hospital that could treat her because of the combination of her conditions, so she was airlifted to Strong Memorial in Rochester and admitted to the liver transplant unit.

There she began a seven-week odyssey of nightmarish proportions, filled with human heroics and heavenly intervention.

She underwent four transfusions. Her hemoglobin would rise a bit, and then fall again. Even when her blood count improved, she was never out of danger as the bleeding steadily persisted and her pain continued to increase. Meanwhile, sonography showed her babies moving and kicking, oblivious to their mother's peril.

At home, the family went into high gear, organizing financial assistance, meals, childcare and prayers from far and wide. By week's end, Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans, Felicians, parishes, the diocesan pro-life network and a multitude of friends and co-workers joined the family in praying for Katy and her babies.

Her husband and parents regularly commuted to and from Rochester. Everyone was updated every evening, but the news was not good. The bleeding slowed but progressed, and a large hematoma grew, threatening her liver and causing pressure on her spine. Katy received massive doses of painkillers and other medications as the bleeding continued. Still, sonograms reassured her that her babies were healthy.

By week two, Katy had three teams; liver, ob/gyn and neurology. Hardly sleeping, they searched globally for advice and precedence. They concluded that only a very dangerous surgery would stop the bleeding and all the teams assembled.

Now 21 weeks old, Theo and Luke were too small to be delivered and would probably not survive the surgery. If they did, the doctors wondered, would Katy heal soon enough to deliver them later?

Despite being critically ill, frightened and in excruciating pain, this young mother was resolute in her commitment to save her sons. When told by members of every team that she should abort so they could safely remove the damaged part of her liver, she simply told them, "No." They would need to find another way.

They decided to surgically attempt to clot the bleeding at its source. The first attempt temporarily slowed the bleeding. Her hemoglobin rose slightly. Encouraged, they repeated the long, painful procedure twice more. Again, Katy's hemoglobin rose. The third time, the bleeding slowed enough to offer real hope that they could avoid the invasive lobectomy. 26 weeks old, the babies still thrived. Countless prayers continued for them, Katy and the doctors.

Katy finally came home to her husband and family. Still dangerously ill and in severe pain, she rested and relished her time with Jay, gradually weaning herself from her pain medication.

On May 7, her two healthy, new sons arrived. Each weighed over five pounds. Katy is still being carefully watched over by her teams and her health is gradually improving. Life is full of all things baby. More than anything, her life is full of, well, life - full measure and overflowing.

Editor's Note: Mary Zablocki is the aunt of Katy DeWitt. This is a personal account shared with DeWitt's permission.  

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