When Liz Tarallo, a pediatric emergency room nurse at Fairfax Inova, was just 15 weeks pregnant, her obstetrician told her she was having twins. A few weeks later, Liz began to notice something was very wrong with her pregnancy; her stomach was severely swollen and she was in extreme pain. After being diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome at a local hospital, Liz was referred to Dr. Ahmet Baschat at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Center for Advanced Fetal Care. Dr. Baschat performed laser ablation surgery that saved the lives of Liz’s twin boys. Read her story below and see related video.
My name is Liz Tarallo. I work in the pediatric emergency room as an ER nurse at Fairfax Inova. When I was 15 weeks pregnant, my obstetrician told me that I was having twins.
When I had my first real level ultrasound at 20 weeks, the doctor said that the babies were perfect, and noted that I had monochorionic twins (identical twins in which two fetuses share one placenta).
Two weeks later, however, I began to experience really bad back pain. I went to my obstetrician to get checked out, and an ultrasound was performed, which still showed I had two babies sharing one placenta. The obstetrician said everything looked fine, but the following week my stomach grew really big -- the skin became almost translucent and I was in a lot of pain. This wasn't normal.
I went to see my doctor on the following Monday. He did a pelvic exam, which showed I was starting to dilate, so he ordered an ultrasound. The radiologist noticed that something was really wrong, and would not allow me to drive. After I finally made it home, my obstetrician called and told me to go to the hospital and get checked by a perinatologist. The perinatologist diagnosed me with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) and said it was pretty severe. I was 21 weeks along at this time. The hospital staff told me that there was a really amazing surgeon in Baltimore who specialized in the treatment of TTTS. They were able to get in touch with Dr. Ahmet Baschat at the University of Maryland Medical Center and schedule my surgery for the very next day.
I didn’t know what to expect. I was scared and in extreme pain. Even though I was supposed to arrive in the morning, the pain was so severe that I decided to come in the middle of night. Once I made it to the Medical Center, I was treated so well. The nursing staff took me in, and I was evaluated by an obstetrics resident, who immediately called Dr. Baschat. Everyone was really caring. It was just great.
Dr. Baschat told me the situation was pretty grave. My options were to terminate both babies, do nothing, have an amino reduction, or try a new laser ablation procedure. I had to make a decision immediately. I understood my options, and decided to have the laser ablation surgery.
During the surgery, Dr. Baschat went through recipient baby’s amniotic sac using a fetoscope with a laser attachment. [There were two sacs with babies inside, but only one placenta which was nourishing both babies. This allowed one baby to take more of the nourishment. The baby taking more of the nourishment is the recipient, and the other baby is the donor.] Dr. Baschat went into the placenta and cauterized the shared blood vessels between the two boys. It was pretty scary -- there were some risks, and the whole experience was something like you might see in a science fiction movie.
After the surgery, I was taken to recovery in the labor and delivery unit where I stayed for two more days. The doctors and nurses followed me really closely and did an ultrasound every morning. Now it was up to the babies to see if they would get better. By the next day, both babies had heart beats. The donor baby started getting the fluid he needed, and recipient baby took almost three liters of amniotic fluid out of his sac.
The surgery was a complete success. The boys were born at 36 weeks; they never had to go to the NICU. Dr. Baschat recommended having a pediatrician who specialized in pediatric development observe the boys to make sure they continued to meet milestones. The pediatrician said they looked great and appeared to be totally healthy. It was very reassuring.
My husband and I have two other children, and these boys seem just like healthy, normal babies. They are prefect; they are miracles. If we hadn’t had the surgery, and opted for amnio reduction instead, there would have been a pretty significant chance that one baby would have died and the surviving baby would have had neurological disabilities. But we had surgery, and we have two normal healthy boys who will be able to grow up together. It’s just amazing, it’s miraculous! These boys were so sick, and Dr. Baschat saved them. The boys are now 10 weeks old and they are just adorable.
Dr. Baschat is our hero; we think the world of him. He saved our babies lives! His team is amazing. Kim, the ultrasonagrapher, exudes happiness. She’s fun, and she made visits enjoyable. Every time we went in, she and the other staff members were so friendly and conversational. It was enjoyable, but still very professional. Each person took his or her job very seriously. We appreciated it, and looked forward to seeing them on our weekly visits. It was very therapeutic.
I still can’t believe how lucky we are. My husband and I love Dr. Baschat and consider him our hero.