A mother almost died three times just to become a mother.
Meet miracle mum, Leanne French.
In the past 12 months, Leanne has had cervical cancer, a ruptured heart and a stroke, but the 41-year-old wanted to become a mother so desperately that she successfully overcame every obstacle along the way, even if it almost killed her and her baby.
The first hurdle she encountered was when she turned 40 a year ago and with that big milestone came the tragic news after a recent pap smear that she had a cervical tumour and it was cancerous.
She had the tumour removed but her oncologist believed it was either still present, or would soon return.
Oncologist Assoc Prof Tom Jobling told the Herald Sun that the safest option would be a radical hysterectomy and removal of pelvic lymph nodes, which means she may not have children. “She was pretty unhappy with that, she wanted to have children,” he said.
So Leanne and her partner George were given a window of three to six months to fall pregnant. “We said to them ‘can we hold off on the hysterectomy for three to six months just to see if it does happen? If it doesn’t happen we will be the first to come back for the hysterectomy because we’ll know it wasn’t meant to be’,” Leanne said.
Luckily, Leanne became pregnant in just a few weeks and did nine pregnancy tests to be sure, and she was so over the moon, although she and George hoped the cancer would not return during Leanne’s pregnancy.
“We followed her during the pregnancy and the plan was for her to have an elective caesarean at 38 weeks followed by a radical hysterectomy about six weeks after she had the baby,” Assoc Prof Jobling said.
Thankfully, the next nine months were like a charmed dream, without sickness or major incidence and without the cancer returning.
But it was the calm before the storm. The second stumbling block is about to come.
On the day of her elective caesarean, Leanne, who also had Marfan syndrome, a condition from birth that can impact heart, eyes and lungs, woke up with horrific chest pains.
Doctors quickly realised that Leanne’s heart was tearing apart and could kill both her and her baby, so she needed to have emergency open heart surgery and an emergency caesarean at the same time.
Monash Medical Centre obstetrician Dr Danielle Quittner had only 30 seconds to deliver the baby safely so she wouldn’t be affected by the anaesthetic for the open heart surgery.
“She didn’t have long. It was a very delicate balance between delivering the baby in a timely fashion but also keeping Leanne stable and minimising blood loss because the cardiothoracics were going to need to have her in the best condition possible,” Dr Quittner said.
Then baby Arya was born. “It was surreal: on one hand we have a baby, on the other hand my wife is going through heart surgery as we are wheeling baby down the hall,” George said.
After an extremely complicated and dangerous operation on her heart, Leanne was put into an induced coma. After 14 hours, Leanne awoke to greet her relieved husband and new baby, but then things went from good to worse.
As Leanne was feeding Arya, she experienced a massive seizure. She suffered from what doctors believed was a stroke. She was paralysed on her left side.
And then another miracle. Leanne woke and was able to feel her left side.
Incredibly, the new mum was shortly able to return home, and miraculously, the cancer had gone, and the stroke was found to be a temporary symptom of eclampsia.
Now, Leanne said she was just happy to put the most stressful year of her life behind her and focus on her own miracle, Arya, her bundle of joy.