Miracle Baby - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Healthy Living Online

Published on June 09, 2016

Healthy mother and baby

Miracle Baby: PIH Health Team Makes Expert Decisions for Pregnant Mother

Healthy mother and babyWhen cancer makes a surprise appearance—and threatens you and your unborn baby—medical excellence becomes a critical lifeline. Just ask Gina Zapanta-Murphy, who at 29-weeks pregnant, discovered she had cervical cancer and relied on experts at PIH Health to care for her and her unborn baby.

As a 35-year-old mom, Gina’s second pregnancy started out as a breeze. Then at around seven months, she noticed a watery discharge. A few weeks later, as the discharge continued, Gina feared a slow rupture and called her obstetrician at the PIH Health Women’s Health Center.

“After describing my symptoms, they encouraged me to go right to the hospital,” she said. “I didn’t think I was in early labor, but I decided to go just to be safe.” After a series of tests and an overnight stay, Gina went home to rest. Two days later, she received shocking news—her lab results identified cervical cancer.

“I couldn’t make sense of it all—it was all so bizarre,” she said. “We were all so worried, yet I had to maintain my sanity—I was still pregnant and was married with a three-year-old.” After connecting with PIH Health Gynecologic Oncologist Samuel Im MD, Gina learned she had Stage I cervical cancer and a lesion nearly 1.5 centimeters long. The team decided to monitor the situation and to determine the healthiest delivery date for the baby, given the new diagnosis.

The plan was to do a C-section, followed by an immediate hysterectomy to remove the cancer.

“Two weeks later, Dr. Im said he felt very uncomfortable with how aggressively the cancer was growing,” said Gina. “When I was six weeks along, I had a pap smear that came back totally normal. Seven months later, I now have a cancerous lesion that’s growing quickly.”

Regular pap smears are recommended for all women 18 years and older, and although most tests come back negative for any signs of pre-cancerous and cancerous cells; some cells may lie dormant and do not show up until a later time, as with Gina’s case.

“Instead of waiting until 37 weeks, Dr. Im moved up the C-section to 34 weeks,” said Gina. “He and my obstetricians had to weigh the risks of my growing cancer with the risks of delivering a premature baby.”

It all happened on October 14, 2015. Gina underwent a complex set of back-to-back surgeries, performed by an expert team of PIH Health obstetricians, surgeons, oncologists, anesthesiologists and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team. Brent Gray MD and Peter Roca MD performed the C-section, which was followed by a hysterectomy.

“I stayed awake for the delivery, and was able to kiss my baby girl before I went under for the hysterectomy,” said Gina. “That was my last memory before I woke up in recovery. I was tremendously relieved when Dr. Im came in and said he was pleased with the outcome of the surgery.”

Twenty-four hours later, Dr. Im found Gina nursing baby Valentina in the NICU, and reported that her final pathology report was clear.

“I have nothing but praise for the hospital and all of the amazing PIH Health doctors and surgeons who helped me and my daughter. I could not be more grateful,” said Gina. “I know this is what they do every day, but it really does change lives.”

For more information or to make an appointment, please call the PIH Health Women’s Center at 562.967.2876.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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