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Mom says ‘miracle’ baby helped save her life when she was diagnosed with complication of rare, genetic condition during pregnancy

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(NEW YORK) — A mom in Michigan credits her baby with saving her life during pregnancy, when she was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition that led to a life-threatening blood vessel problem.

Amanda Banic, 35, said she had an easy and healthy pregnancy with her first child, a daughter named Baylor, up until around 35 weeks of pregnancy, when she began to experience severe chest pains.

Worried she was having a heart attack, Banic said she asked her husband to take her to the emergency room, where she was monitored for a few hours and then sent home with what she described as a “diagnosis of indigestion and anxiety.”

Just days later, Banic said she again experienced chest pains, this time accompanied by pain that extended into her jaw and blurry vision.

“I just felt in that moment that this was it. I think I’m dying,” Banic told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “I didn’t know how else to explain it. I had just never felt anything like it.”

Banic said despite the severe pain she was in, she told her husband she didn’t want to go back to the emergency room because of her prior experience.

“I argued because I was like, you know, they’re just going to send me home with anxiety again,” she recalled. “I was fearful of even going to the hospital.”

Banic said her husband Derek was insistent, and drove her to the local hospital.

When they arrived, Banic said doctors told her they would need to medevac her immediately to a larger hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, over 80 miles away from their home in Hartford.

She was diagnosed with aortic dissection, a life-threatening condition in which there is a tear in the aorta, the main artery that pumps blood away from the heart to the rest of the body, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It’s a condition that occurs in only 2 out of 10,000 people, and is most commonly seen in men between the ages of 40 and 70.

Banic said the doctors treating her kept calm about the severity of her diagnosis in order to help her stay calm too.

“I don’t think I even realized really what was happening until I got to Grand Rapids and was rolled into the operating room and it was just packed to the gills with doctors and nurses and techs,” Banic said. “Then it hit me that it was a pretty serious situation.”

She continued, “The very last thing I remember saying was, ‘Just please make sure I get to meet my baby."”

Dr. Erin Fricke, the board-certified OB-GYN who cared for Banic when she arrived at Corewell Health in Grand Rapids, said there were around 20 medical providers in the room ready to treat Banic.

“There are just not very many people who present as far in pregnancy with such an acute situation,” Fricke said. “I remember thinking how terrified she must be. She came wheeled into the operating room on the stretcher, and I went right to her side and I said, ‘I’m Dr. Fricke. I’m going to be the one to help take care of you and deliver your baby."”

Banic gave birth to her daughter Baylor via emergency cesarean section led by Fricke on May 9, 2023.

Despite Banic’s life-threatening condition, Baylor was born healthy, according to both Fricke and Banic, who would not meet their daughter until nearly one week later.

Immediately after giving birth, Banic said she underwent an aortic dissection repair, a nearly 13-hour surgery to correct the tear in her aorta.

The next morning, she said she had another open heart surgery, a triple bypass surgery, to reroute blood around her arteries.

“Over a span of 24 hours, I had a triple bypass, a C-section and aortic dissection repair surgery,” Banic said. “[Doctors] contacted my family … and let them know that I was the sickest person in the hospital and the only thing I had going for me was my age and my health before pregnancy, just the fact that I was young and healthy.”

While Banic spent the next week on life support, her husband crisscrossed the hospital to two different rooms — Banic’s in the intensive care unit and Baylor’s in the neonatal intensive care unit, where she spent time because she was born premature.

“He had a pretty new pair of tennis shoes, and he literally wore a hole in the bottom of this pair of tennis shoes because he walked, basically ran, so much during my stay at the hospital, back and forth,” Banic said. “We had tried for this baby for a couple of years, and for him to have to be thrown into fatherhood the way that he was, and him not knowing if he was going to have to raise her alone, it was just terrible.”

Derek Banic said at multiple points while his wife was on life support, doctors told him they were not sure she would survive.

“I feel like I’m a pretty tough person as far as stuff like that, and it was weighing me down,” he said. “I just, I can’t thank God enough, honestly.”

The Banics said nurses would hold Baylor up to her mother while she was unconscious and on life support so that the new mom could feel her newborn’s skin, and vice versa.

“Some of the only times I would react on life support was when they would do skin-to-skin with [Baylor], and apparently I would cry when they would do that,” Banic said. “Love is a powerful thing, and the bond between a mother and a baby, it’s unreal.”

Banic said she was taken off life support on May 14, 2023, on Mother’s Day, after which she was able to meet Baylor for the first time.

She said that doctors have since told her that Baylor helped save her life.

“Because of the way I dissected, she kind of was in there, essentially holding everything together,” Banic said. “Had she not been in there putting the pressure on all the right places, my outcome may have been very different, so she’s kind of a little miracle, in more more ways than one.”

Baylor was also Banic’s motivation to heal and leave the hospital as quickly as hospital. While doctors told her she would likely need to go to a rehabilitation and then require in-home nursing care, Banic said she was discharged from the hospital in less than 20 days and was able to go directly home.

“[Derek] was there with me every day and I saw my baby every single day, and my recovery would not have been the same without that,” Banic said. “Once I became coherent again and really knew what had to be done, I just started doing it and kind of exceeding all their expectations.”

After nearly dying after childbirth, Banic was able to celebrate the holidays with her husband and daughter and ring in a new year, during which Baylor will turn 1.

Following her aortic dissection, Banic said she underwent further testing and was diagnosed with Loeys-Dietz syndrome, a disorder that affects the connective tissue in different parts of the body, which increases the risk of having blood vessel problems such as an aortic dissection, according to the National Library of Medicine. Studies have also shown that people with this syndrome can be at higher risk of having an aortic dissection during pregnancy.

The diagnosis forced Banic to undergo additional testing and will require future procedures, but she said she is, for now, happy to be alive and able to watch her 8-month-old “miracle” daughter grow up.

“I’ve dreamed about these days, but they are just beyond precious,” Banic said, adding that her diagnosis means she won’t be able to give birth again. “I don’t take a single day for granted. Every day seems like a holiday for us. I just take advantage of every single day.”

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