It’s always unbelievably sad to hear of someone dying at a young age, and the story of Karla Perez is particularly devastating. The 22-year-old was 22 weeks pregnant when she was taken to the hospital and declared brain-dead. In this case, though, there is still some reason to feel hopeful, despite the loss of a young mom. Her doctors recently delivered her baby, and they say he’s healthy and doing well. This is the first time a woman has been kept on life support and successfully delivered a healthy baby in the U.S. since 1999, according to a press release issued by Methodist Women’s Hopsital in Omaha, where the baby was born.
“Our team took a giant leap of faith,” Sue Korth, vice president and chief operating officer of Methodist Women’s Hospital, said in the press release. “We were attempting something that not many before us have been able to do. I couldn’t be more proud of our medical team and the more than 100 staff who were a part of her care. Karla’s loss of life was difficult, but the legacy she has left behind is remarkable.”
Karla, who lived in Waterloo, Nebraska, collapsed in her home on February 8 after complaining of severe headaches. It turned out she had had a brain hemorrhage, and a few hours after being taken the hospital, doctors declared her brain-dead. She also had juvenile arthritis, and according to Methodist Women’s Hosptial’s press release, women with the condition are generally advised not to get pregnant. Karla had, however, successfully carried a child in the past; her daughter is now 3 years old.
At the time she was brought to the hospital on February 8, Karla was only 22 weeks pregnant—and that’s too early for a baby to survive outside of the womb. “Karla’s baby was fine, but its gestational age was too young to consider delivery,” explained Andrew Robertson, M.D., in the department maternal-fetal medicine at Methodist Women’s Hospital Perinatal Center, in the hospital’s press release. “That’s when the team and Karla’s family agreed to attempt to provide somatic support and maintain Karla’s pregnancy until her baby reached a viable gestational age.”
Doctors were able to keep Karla alive for 54 days (this is when her condition started declining), and they then delivered baby Angel via C-section on April 4, when Karla was 30 weeks pregnant. Angel (shown in the above photos; here he is with his grandmother, Berta Jimenez) weighed in at two pounds, 12.6 ounces at birth. Doctors said that although he’s in an incubator and has a feeding tube, Angel’s condition is very stable and he didn’t suffer from any severe complications. Karla was confirmed brain-dead on April 6. Her heart, kidneys, and liver were donated to four different people on April 9.
It’s so heartbreaking that Angel and his older sister will grow up without their mother—but we hope Karla’s remarkable story brings them some comfort one day.