QLD_CM_NEWS_STEVIE_DEC19
QLD_CM_NEWS_STEVIE_DEC19

Shot-glass of blood changes tot’s life before it begins

STEVIE Bennett would have died without blood transfusions while she was still in her mother's womb.

But the 32-month-old's mother Monique now describes her youngest daughter as determined, feisty and full of life.

"She's thriving," Mrs Bennett said.

The Sunshine Coast mum was 25 weeks pregnant when tests at Nambour Hospital revealed she had parvovirus, which had crossed the placenta and infected her unborn baby.

Monique Bennett with daughter Stevie, who required blood transfusions in the womb. Picture: Lachie Millard
Monique Bennett with daughter Stevie, who required blood transfusions in the womb. Picture: Lachie Millard

Stevie had life-threatening anaemia, as a result of the virus destroying her red blood cells.

The parvovirus had also resulted in a serious condition, known as hydrops - increased fluid around her heart, abdomen and brain.

Mrs Bennett, from Warana, was transported by ambulance to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital for expert treatment by maternal foetal medicine specialist Renuka Sekar.

Using ultrasound to guide her, Dr Sekar inserted a needle into the young mother's abdomen and guided it into the tiny baby's umbilical vein, giving her a transfusion of 30ml - the equivalent of a standard shot glass full of blood.

Unborn babies receive the universal blood type, O negative.

"Stevie was very sick," Dr Sekar said.

"If we didn't treat her, she would definitely not be here with us; the baby would be dead, no doubt about it.

"Babies can be treated in the womb."

Dr Sekar said about four to 10 blood transfusions were performed on babies in-utero at the RBWH annually.

Stevie, who has a six-year-old sister Isabelle, had another transfusion a week later and at 28 weeks gestation was delivered by emergency caesarean section after her mother went into premature labour.

Stevie Bennett at home in Warana, on the Sunshine Coast. The 32-month-old required blood transfusions in the womb. Picture: Lachie Millard
Stevie Bennett at home in Warana, on the Sunshine Coast. The 32-month-old required blood transfusions in the womb. Picture: Lachie Millard

She spent another four months in hospital and needed about eight more blood transfusions after birth.

"There were a lot of what ifs," her mother said.

"It was just crazy. There was a lot going on.

"It makes me quite emotional just thinking about it and how grateful we are to people that donate blood.

"If it wasn't for them, she wouldn't be here, and the doctor, she basically saved Stevie's life by doing those in-utero blood transfusions.

"Stevie's incredible. We're very lucky."

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service, now known as Lifeblood, has launched a "Blood Blitz" to encourage Queenslanders to donate over the Christmas-new year period to ensure enough supplies are available during the holiday season.

Lifeblood spokeswoman Belinda Smetioukh said the summer holidays were a time when blood stocks may run low.

Stevie Bennett with her dog Ruby. Stevie required blood transfusions in the womb. Picture: Lachie Millard
Stevie Bennett with her dog Ruby. Stevie required blood transfusions in the womb. Picture: Lachie Millard

"It takes blood donations from four people to make just one bag of platelets for patients," she said. "They only last for five days so we can't stockpile them ahead of the holidays. We're launching the Blood Blitz to remind people the need for blood won't be taking a break this Christmas and urge those who can to make an appointment to donate over the holidays.

"We need a new donor every five minutes to meet Australia's growing blood needs so there's never been a better time to donate."

Donor centres around the country will be open this festive season, including some on Boxing Day.

Visit lifeblood.com.au or call 13 14 95.


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