'Ghost baby' born without blood in California
IRVINE, CA -- At the birth of their first child, new parents may not always know what to expect. But one Fountain Valley couple was not prepared for what happened when their daughter was born. She came into the world with a feature some might call "ghostly."
The day 6-week-old Hope Juarez entered the world, she was as white as a ghost. When doctors brought her to draw blood, they could barely get a drop.
"She was crying and they brought her over to us and she was really pale," said the baby's father, Josh Juarez. "I knew that something was really wrong when they started pricking at her feet trying to get blood to come out and there was no blood coming out."
Hours before Hope was born, her blood had drained out of her body.
"She probably lost about 80 percent or more. She was pale. She was really white," said Dr. Marielle Nguyen, a neonatologist at Kaiser Permanente, Irvine Medical Center.
Doctors performed an emergency C-section. Her only hope for survival was a blood transfusion.
But what went wrong during 27-year-old Jennifer Juarez's first pregnancy? Every day, her baby grew stronger.
"She would kick around 10 times within half an hour, which is a lot," said Jennifer.
But three weeks before her due date, the kicking stopped. She went to her midwife.
"She asked me, 'Well what's your gut feeling?' And I said, 'I don't know. I just feel like something's off. Something's not right,'" said Jennifer.
Hope suffered from a fetal-maternal hemorrhage. The only other known recent case of a so-called "ghost white baby" surviving at birth occurred in the U.K. in 2012. There were similar circumstances. The mom in that case also noticed her daughter had stopped kicking.
Slight loss of fetal blood occurs in 98 percent of pregnancies, but hardly ever to this degree and rarely do babies survive.
"We don't know what causes it. A lot of it is just it happens spontaneously. Sometimes the cause could be a motor vehicle accident, trauma, or where we have placental rupture, where the placenta suddenly just comes off the uterine wall," said Nguyen.
None of that happened to Jennifer, so why Hope lost all her blood is unknown. How to prevent fetal-maternal hemorrhage is unknown, too.
What doctors do know is that Jennifer saved her daughter's life because she noticed when her baby stopped kicking and got medical attention right away. If she had waited, even just an hour or two, doctors say Hope would not be alive today.
"Go into the doctor. Get checked. Your baby's life may depend on it," Jennifer said.
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