It’s a Brand New Day… Jo & Levi’s Story

Jo Letterman’s story is part of UNC REX Healthcare’s Brand New Day patient story series. Jo reminds us just how important it is not give up hope, even if your situation is against all odds.

In June 2010 our lives were forever changed. I was almost 18 weeks pregnant with our first child. We had waited past the first trimester to make sure everything was okay and then told everyone! We were so excited. I was going to be 36 years old when I delivered, so I was sent to a high risk ultrasound as a normal precaution. My husband and I walked in on a Monday afternoon to the high risk ultrasound doctor’s office with my sister, mother-in-law and father-in-law. We were all so excited to find out the sex of the newest member to the “Letterman” family!

During our ultrasound, we were told we were having a boy. The doctor came in after a long wait and we were told our baby had several birth defects. Prune Belly Syndrome and Downs Syndrome were the two main birth defects we were told he had. The doctor said his bladder and kidneys were not working. Our son, Levi James Letterman, needed a miracle. We had already chosen his name. We asked if there had ever been a “miracle case” and were told “no”. We were told all the cases they had seen with this birth defect were born stillborn, die at birth or shortly after, or need a kidney transplant at birth. We were told the likelihood of receiving a match for a kidney transplant were nonexistent and our son would have to go on dialysis the day he was born if he lived which would be very painful. It was suggested we terminate the pregnancy.

To say we were devastated is an understatement. I had to go back the next day and do an amniocentesis which would tell us the exact birth defects our son had. It would take 7-10 days to get the results back. Needless to say, I cried and prayed more that week than I ever had done in my life. I did not get out of bed some days and could not go to work. Life felt hopeless. All of our friends and family were praying for a miracle. Again we were offered the solution to terminate the pregnancy and were told it needed to be done by the end of my 19th week. We would barely have our results back from the amniocentesis at 19 weeks and had to make a life altering decision. We prayed for guidance and contacted my doctor’s office to get a second opinion.

Four days later, UNC Women’s Specialty Center at Rex saw us for a second opinion. They had already been sent our file from the previous doctor’s office. We met with the genetics counselor and told her our devastating news. Next we had another high risk ultrasound by one of their techs. The tech started explaining what to expect and we told her we already knew what would happen. We advised her it was our second ultrasound this week. She asked what the first ultrasound showed. We told her we would let her know after she performed our ultrasound because we wanted her unbiased opinion. In the end, the UNC doctor told us he did not see what we were previously told. He said our son’s kidneys were enlarged, but his bladder and kidney’s were working because he urinated during the ultra sound. He took his time and we watched the monitor as our son’s bladder filled back up. It was a miracle! He did not see any markers of Down syndrome either. He told us to come back in a few weeks for another ultrasound and reassured us there was HOPE. Our case was not hopeless…we had been given a miracle! The following Tuesday we received the results back from our amniocentesis and there were no birth defects present. We could not believe it was suggested to us to terminate our pregnancy just one week earlier.

On October 28, 2010 Levi James Letterman was born 3 weeks early weighing 8 lbs. 11 oz. He was born in the Women’s Center at Rex Hospital. He was perfectly healthy and needed no special medical assistance. The hospital and staff were wonderful. They kept us calm and reassured during our birth process. The reason I am sharing this story is to provide HOPE to anyone who may ever receive devastating news like we did. I would like to provide hope in a hopeless situation and encourage everyone to get a second opinion and let you know that miracles do happen. If you don’t believe in miracles just look at my son.

— Jo Letterman