Baby Faith defies doctor's predictions for anencephaly

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Baby Faith defies doctor's predictions for anencephaly

A 23 year-old single mother named Myah Walker has created a blog to record the first weeks of the life of her newborn daughter. Faith Hope Walker was born a little over six weeks ago and her mother's blog features photos and videos of the child whom doctors predicted would not live more than a few minutes or hours after birth, reports Hilary White,

Myah, a single mother and student living in Moncton, New Brunswick, writes that when she was 19 weeks pregnant, doctors told her that the child suffered from anencephaly, that she had not developed a large part of her brain. Myah was told that the baby could not survive outside the womb and was alive only because "she was attached" to her mother. She was assured that Faith would be able neither to hear nor see. But contrary to doctors' predictions, and the received wisdom of most medical authorities on anencephaly, her mother reports that Faith is thriving and growing normally for a child her age.

Myah, a Christian, writes, "Contrary to pretty much everything that the medical community believes about anencephaly, Faith is functioning at the same level as any 'normal' baby of her age ... The only error here is the false information that doctors are being taught about anencephaly in med schools."

The earliest blog posts show photos of Faith while she was still in the womb, taken by 3D ultrasound technology, sucking her thumb and moving about. Myah was told by doctors that she could continue the pregnancy without risk, "Or, I could choose to induce early to terminate the pregnancy."

In deciding against abortion, she writes, the decision was obvious to her. "It was not a decision that I had to think about."

"For some reason I had to give the doctors my decision over and over again, which was frustrating. One doctor asked, 'Can I ask why you want to continue this pregnancy?' I guess some people are baffled by unconditional love."

Myah clarifies early in her daughter's online record that children diagnosed with anencephaly are often wrongly described as having no brain. After seeking a second opinion, Myah obtained further ultrasounds and was able to determine that Faith did have some parts of the brain developing, and believes that doctors told her that her baby had no brain based only on general knowledge of anencephaly.

"It is apparent to me that Faith does have a brain, despite what the doctors have said. Even though it is generally believed that anencephalic babies are blind, deaf, and cannot feel touch or think ... I don't believe that. Not at all," she wrote in December.

"So little is known about the human brain and the only one who really knows what's going on is God. I truly believe that Faith can think and can feel my touch and hear my voice."

Myah describes her meetings with doctors prior to birth, saying that the neonatologist, whom she does not name, offered no post-natal care for Faith, saying only that the opening in her head would be covered with a blanket. When Myah asked for painkillers and treatment for any seizures Faith might have, her requests were refused on the grounds that they constituted "futile" care for children with anencephaly.

Faith was born by caesarean section on February 19, and her mother wrote after 20 days, "Apart from a sterile dressing on her head that needs to be changed once a day, Faith lives a completely normal life. She isn't suffering or sickly, like you would expect. With no tubes and no machines supporting her life, she continues to thrive."

Anencephaly occurs, usually between the 23rd and 26th day of pregnancy, when the cephalic (head) end of the child's neural tube fails to close. Children with this disorder are usually born without parts of their forebrain, the largest part of the brain consisting mainly of the cerebral hemispheres, and the remaining brain tissue is sometimes exposed. In most cases, anencephalic children do not survive more than a few hours after birth. In the United States, approximately 1 out of 10,000 to 20,000 babies is born with anencephaly each year.

Anencephaly is considered by most doctors to be grounds for abortion and this is routinely offered to women whose children are found to suffer from the disorder during pregnancy.

Even some Catholic ethicists believe that such children should be "allowed to die" prematurely. In London, Ontario, a Catholic hospital maintains a policy offering "early inducement" for children with "fatal anomalies," including anencephaly, claiming that early termination of pregnancy is not contrary to Catholic teaching.

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