She wanted a baby for so long, and then he needed lifesaving surgery. A healthy child is Maira Hernandez’s Mother’s Day gift.
“I want him to have a bright future, and I thank God for putting Michele in my path so my baby can have that.”May 6, 2020
Maira Hernandez and her son Christopher, for whom the word “charmer” was invented. Photo by Erin O. Smith
Maira Hernandez spent 15 unsuccessful years trying to become a mother.
After visiting countless doctors in multiple states, she settled in Nashville in 2018 under the belief that Michele Gibson-O’Grady, MSN, CNM, a nurse midwife at the Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health Columbia, could help make her dream a reality.
Gibson-O’Grady diagnosed Hernandez with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a known risk factor for infertility, and hypothyroidism. Three months after she was placed on a medication to help her ovulate, Hernandez returned to the clinic with a positive pregnancy test.
“I had been wanting to have a baby for so long. No one could figure out what was wrong, but Michele found the reason. I couldn’t believe the treatment worked.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Hernandez. “I had been wanting to have a baby for so long. No one could figure out what was wrong, but Michele found the reason. I couldn’t believe the treatment worked.”
On Nov. 30, 2018, Hernandez listened to her baby’s heartbeat for the first time, dreaming about his future and joyfully awaiting his arrival. But at her 32nd week ultrasound, her happiness came to a halt.
“The doctors saw something strange, but they didn’t know what it was. They described it as a ‘black spot’ on my baby’s kidney,” said Hernandez.
Gibson-O’Grady, sonographer Barbara Bocci, and maternal-fetal medicine specialist Lavenia Carpenter, MD, carefully watched the baby’s kidney over the next few weeks and recommended he receive a renal ultrasound shortly after birth.
Hernandez’s son, Christopher, entered the world with no complications at the end of June, 2019. Three days later, the “black spot” on his left kidney was identified as cancer.
“When they told me it was cancer, that moment broke my heart. I cried and begged to God. I was sad, but I felt better knowing the problem had a solution,” said Hernandez.
“He is active, learning to crawl, can say, ‘Dad,’ and has one tooth. He hasn’t been sick since he left the hospital.”
Eleven days after birth, Christopher underwent surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to remove his left kidney. He spent four days in the hospital and, thanks to the quick actions and teamwork of specialists across multiple sites and disciplines, left with his mother as a healthy newborn.
“My baby is doing very well. When I look at him and think about what I suffered, it feels like nothing because I have a baby that enjoys good health,” said Hernandez. “He is active, learning to crawl, can say, ‘Dad,’ and has one tooth. He hasn’t been sick since he left the hospital.”
While Hernandez largely attributes her successful journey into motherhood to Gibson-O’Grady, Gibson-O’Grady believes Hernandez’s journey is just one example of the teamwork Vanderbilt’s maternity services relies on daily to provide the best outcomes for new and expectant mothers.
“It is clear that the coordination among our midwives, ultrasound technicians, maternal fetal medicine specialists and neonatologists/surgeons led to this wonderful outcome and, potentially, saved this baby’s life,” said Gibson-O’Grady. “Our maternity service at Vanderbilt is excellent, and this is a fine example of the patient-centered care we provide. Maira was so grateful to everyone involved.”
For Hernandez, the best part about her newfound motherhood is being able to play with Christopher, breastfeed him and watch him grow up.
“I hope he becomes big. I hope he grows up to have a wife and children of his own,” said Hernandez. “I want him to have a bright future, and I thank God for putting Michele in my path so my baby can have that.”