Mother with a bad heart gives birth to a miracle baby


By Nigel Boys

Shanelle Ragin, who was born with a rare heart condition that made her gasp for breath after going up a flight of stairs, must feel like one of the luckiest people in the world, after giving birth to a healthy baby boy two months ago, against all odds.

When Shanelle was born with only one ventricle in her heart, doctors told her mother, Terri Ragin, that they could help her baby girl if they performed a surgical technique known as the Fontan operation. They intended to perform the operation straight away when she was only one day old.

Although she wanted to help her little girl, Ragin was afraid that such a little person might not survive the surgery, but she came through and lived as normal a life as can be expected with someone suffering a condition that makes the heart struggle to pump enough blood. The infant child would have to go through the rest of her life, however, taking medication to keep her alive.

When Shanelle became unexpectedly pregnant, doctors warned her that to go through with the pregnancy would entail her putting her own life and that of the baby at serious risk.

However, the African-American mother to be went through the nine months of pregnancy, closely monitored by a team of doctors and brought forth a beautiful, healthy boy, Carter.

With the help of a team of doctors and nurses, including OB/GYN Melissa Freiss from MedStar Hospital Center, Washington, D.C., Shanelle spent almost the whole of her pregnancy on bed rest, while the team monitored her very closely.

According to Dr. Anitha John, a congenital heart defect specialist at Children’s National Health System, the main cause for alarm was that Shanelle’s heart now had the added burden of keeping two people alive, not one. She added that the risk of heart failure, especially during labor, was very high indeed.

Freiss said that it was a gamble on the part of the expectant mother and the medical team that mother and baby would survive. She added “I felt really proud of Shanelle. I think in a way, having a baby, a healthy, beautiful baby like Carter, is an affirming part that you are a normal woman.”

Although Ragin’s biggest fear during her pregnancy was that either herself of the baby would die, she gave birth to Carter, who weighed in at just over five pounds.


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