Fort Sanders Perinatal Center helps woman through high-risk pregnancies
It had taken 11 months to get pregnant, and the last thing Sara Kirthlink wanted was a reason to worry about her long-awaited child. Kirthlink’s obstetrician had detected possible preeclampsia, a complication involving high blood pressure and risk to internal organs. There was also evidence that the baby, who she and her husband Adam had named Colgan, had a
This meant the umbilical cord connecting mother and baby had one less vessel than normal. In most cases a two-cord vessel is uneventful, but physicians like to keep a close watch on babies with this condition and moms with preeclampsia. Kirthlink was referred to Fort Sanders Perinatal Center, a place where specially trained doctors and nurses treat women who have high-risk pregnancies.
“I do not think I could have been in any better hands anywhere else,” she says.
An Uncertain Future
Perry Roussis, MD, says Fort Sanders Perinatal Center offers specialized care for women like Kirthlink.
“We go through OBGYN training the same way that all the other OB-GYNs do, but then we have three years specializing in obstetrics and conditions that a have high risk for complications. So we are a lot more specialized dealing with issues and complications.”
Kirthlink spent the weekend before her appointment on bed rest, fearing what might be ahead. When she saw Dr. Roussis, he determined that Kirthlink should be hospitalized immediately.
“He walked us over to the hospital,” Kirthlink says. “He got us admitted with the idea that we would be there for a while to kind of keep an eye on me and Colgan, running tests every other day or every three days for different things.”
Each day a physician checked on her. When a week had passed and after a second ultrasound, Dr. Roussis told Kirthlink that the baby needed to be delivered.
“I just remember my jaw dropped and I said, ‘Oh, God,’ because we were 23 weeks and six days,” Kirthlink says. “By some miracle, they were able to intubate him. The nurses told us he gave a couple little cries on his own, but we didn’t hear it, there was so much going on.”
Kirthlink and her husband spent two days with their precious and tiny baby before he passed away. He died on March 27, 2019, the day after the Kirthlinks’ wedding anniversary.
“He was too small, too fragile,” Kirthlink says. “We had to let him go.”
There were follow-up appointments with Dr. Roussis at Fort Sanders Perinatal Center, and Kirthlink says the emotional support she received was just as important as the physical recovery.
“They knew. They knew me. They knew my story. They knew what I’d been through. All the nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, I mean, it didn’t matter who I saw,” Kirthlink says. “They were very sensitive, very supportive, very helpful, just all of the good things that we needed.”
Kirthlink was devastated by the loss of her firstborn, but she refused to give up on her hopes of motherhood and family. She and Adam saw genetic counselors at the Perinatal Center and also worked with a fertility specialist.
There were miscarriages, but the Kirthlinks kept trying. When Kirthlink held a pregnancy for 12 weeks, she returned to the Perinatal Center for care.
“I knew immediately I wanted to go back,” Kirthlink says. “There was no question. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I felt safe.”
Pregnancy after the loss of a delivered baby causes a kind of uncertainty and pain that few can comprehend, even if things are going well. “It was hard, but every time I had a question, they answered it,” Kirthlink says. “I know the Perinatal Center is a big practice, but when I’m there, I don’t feel like just another patient.”
Because of the type of C-section Kirthlink had with her first pregnancy, she was only able to carry her second pregnancy to 37 weeks. On Nov. 5, 2021, at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, she and her husband welcomed little Theo Kirthlink into the world, a healthy baby boy who just happened to arrive a little early.
Today, baby Theo is growing and doing well, meeting all the important developmental milestones. Kirthlink shares her story in support of other women who may be struggling with pregnancy. When friends asked her why she didn’t give up, she told them giving up was not an option.
“If it’s something you want, just keep going,” she says. “Trust the experts and have faith.”
To learn more about high-risk pregnancy care at Fort Sanders Perinatal Center, visit FortSandersPerinatal.com.