Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
Last month I received a message from a reader, Christina Schmitts, whose grandson had been born with a birth defect known as gastroschisis. I had never heard of the condition, but the fact that he’d spent nearly 9 weeks in the NICU meant it was something serious. It made me wonder not only about gastroschisis, but about how many other babies are born in the U.S. each year only to struggle with major complications during their first weeks of life.
In the case of Zain Schmitts, his parents found out during a 3-D ultrasound when his mother was 15 weeks pregnant that he had gastroschisis, which causes intestines and other abdominal organs to grow outside the developing body. “We thought it only affected his small intestines and his stomach, but when he was born it was actually his gall bladder, and his appendix, and his small and large intestine that were all outside,” says his mother, Lejla Handanovic.
More and more babies in the U.S. are born each year with gastroschisis. In fact, between 1995 and 2005, the number of cases nearly doubled. “During the time I was pregnant, there were nine other women at the same hospital that were being monitored for the same issue,” said Lejla. Doctors and researchers are working to discover the cause for this drastic jump, but so far they’ve come up short.
“Every four and a half minutes a baby is born in the U.S. with a birth defect,” says Beverly Robertson, the national director of the Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education Center at the March of Dimes in Mamaroneck, New York. This translates to about 1 in every 33 babies. Of course, these conditions range in severity. The most common defects occur in the heart, but cleft lip/cleft palate, Down syndrome, and spina bifida follow closely behind.
The causes of about 70 percent of birth defects are unknown. Some, like fetal alcohol syndrome, are 100 percent preventable. “If you don’t drink alcohol, your baby will not have fetal alcohol syndrome,” says Robertson.
Thank to an increased knowledge of the human genome, doctors and researchers are also able to have a better sense of which birth defects exist. And with the advent of 3-D ultrasounds, we can see more than a beating heart in utero and it’s easier than ever to catch potential problems.
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Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
We all know Rihanna has a reputation for being a “bad girl,” but stealing from premature babies who need life-or-death care in neonatal intensive care units is going a bit far.
No, Rihanna’s not going around stealing snuggly blankets from preemies, but a rumored habit she reportedly shares with other celebrities including Madonna, Simon Cowell, and Cindy Crawford could be making an already dire situation in NICUs across the country even worse.
Here’s the deal: Celebs (and wealthy non-famous people) who lead super busy lives, are constantly traveling, and yes, especially those who maybe party hard, want a quick fix to keep them energized and looking great for red carpet events. Enter the “party girl drip,” an IV treatment that Dr. Jeffrey Morrison described to ABC News as “a multivitamin in a bag.” Several celebs, including Rhianna, who posted a picture of herself with what many doctors think was a vitamin-boosting IV, are reported to use them to beat hangovers out or to look more energized for big appearances. And there’s even a Las Vegas-based “party girl drip” business called Hangover Heaven where partiers can get an vitamin-based injection of relief from their morning-after woes.
So, what’s the problem here (besides some rich people spending money on something they might be able to get from a Flinstone’s vitamin?), and what’s the connection with premature babies in the NICU, you ask? Well, those same liquid vitamins are crucial in the care of many preemies whose digestive tracts simply aren’t mature enough to digest anything yet, and who rely on IV vitamin and nutrient drips for survival. And, even without the trendiness of party girl drips, our nation’s hospitals are currently suffering from a major shortage of many injectables needed by premature babies and other patients caused by manufacturing issues and a bunch of problems with the FDA. The party girl drip trend is, no doubt, only making matters worse.
“It’s appalling that we are sacrificing the health of our babies for beauty, energy, and hangover relief,” clincal pharmacist Steve Plogsted, who chairs the drug-shortage task force of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition told the Washingtonian. “We’ve got babies’ lives hanging in the balance while we’re worried about getting through a hangover.”
While I agree that it’s a worse than appalling situation—and that it’s really the FDA’s job to make things right, and fast—I’d also like to think that Rihanna, Madonna, and others who are said to use the drips simply don’t know anything about this vitamin shortage crisis—or else they’d have compassion for those in need and stop wasting such precious resources. I don’t think we’re necessarily dealing with bad people here, just a lot of cluelessness.
Do you think party girl drip users would quit getting the IVs if they knew about the problem, or do you think these celebs are too selfish? Did you even know we had such a scary shortage in our hospitals? Let me know thoughts in the comments.
Image of Rihanna via Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com
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