Tara and Travis Markel first learned something was wrong with their unborn baby boy during a routine screening with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. The baby’s bladder was enlarged to the size of his head, indicating an obstruction. Their doctor wasn’t optimistic, but Tara and Travis weren’t ready to give up.
In their research, they found The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the more they learned, the more they knew it was where they needed to be. At 19 weeks, Tara underwent a fetal shunt procedure to bypass the lower urinary tract obstruction (LUTO) and allow urine to drain from the baby’s bladder into the amniotic fluid. At 37 weeks, Owen was born. Read more about Owen's journey.
Tara walked into The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia when she was 17 weeks pregnant with Owen. Look at him now.
Owen’s Lower Urinary Tract Obstruction Story: Look at Him Now
Travis: We first learned that there was something wrong when we went for a routine ultrasound.
Tara: And we were at 13 weeks at that point. The doctor came in and just said that they found something concerning. He told us the baby’s bladder was very large. And he explained that there was probably an obstruction there causing the urine to not be able to get out of the bladder. He just explained that the prognosis for these patients is very poor. He told us that most people choose to terminate the pregnancies. He just kept using words like, “lethal, fatal, grim, poor prognosis.”
Lower urinary tract obstruction is just when there’s some sort of blockage in the pathway for urine to get out of the bladder and into the amniotic sac.
Travis: We decided to look to do our own research and figure out what our options were. And had come across CHOP. And we learned that CHOP was basically the best place in the world to go for that diagnosis. Ultimately we found out that he was a candidate for the fetal surgery.
Tara: The surgery involved putting a catheter, or a shunt, through the baby’s abdomen into his bladder to give a pathway for the urine to come out of the baby. At 19 weeks we underwent the fetal bladder shunt procedure.
Travis: Owen was born on August 7, 2013. He weighed 8 lb, 6 oz, and he was 19 inches long. I think Owen has taught us to just take one day at a time and not get too far ahead of ourselves, and just be happy for the moments that we have with him that we, at one point, didn’t think we'd ever have.
Tara: A day does not go by that we don’t think about the fact that somebody told us that Owen wouldn’t be here. I just feel grateful that we took it upon ourselves to do the research and to find somewhere that could help.
I walked through the doors at CHOP when I was 17 weeks pregnant with Owen…
Travis: And look at him now.
Topics Covered: Lower Urinary Tract Obstruction (LUTO)
Related Centers and Programs: The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment Celebrates 20 Years, Richard D. Wood Jr. Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment