In 2009, after years of trying to start a family, Darlene and her husband Ricardo finally got the news they’d been waiting for – they were having a baby! When Darlene started vomiting non-stop 10 weeks into her pregnancy she chalked it up to morning sickness.
After numerous trips to the doctor, fluids and blood work, with no relief for the intense pain she had, she was admitted for what an ultrasound image showed to be gall stones. Just three months pregnant, she put her life and that of her unborn baby into the hands of surgeons to remove her gall bladder. Unfortunately the relief she had hoped for didn’t come. With limited options due to her pregnancy, her doctors transferred her to the experts at Tufts Medical Center.
“From the second I arrived...My care team was a true team”
Teresa Marino, MD and the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Maternal-Fetal Medicine tested Darlene for a number of conditions and helped get her pain under control. “Doctors and nurses were coming in and out all the time. My care team was a true team.”
Five different departments were involved in Darlene’s case, and the communication between them never missed a beat – they were all on the same team – Team Darlene. “When I would see the gastroenterology doctors, they would know what was going on with OB/GYN. I didn’t have to fill each of them in on what happened since I last saw them,” says Darlene.
During a regular ultrasound in the midst of her two month hospital stay, Darlene and her husband found out they were having a girl.
“That was my glimmer of hope in the midst of everything.”
Finally, two months after she first got sick, 10 days after her care was transferred to Tufts Medical Center, general surgeons performed exploratory surgery and found a Stage 3 tumor in her colon. The surgeons removed the entire tumor then and there. “When I woke, and they told me they’d found a tumor, I remember the very first thing I asked was if I was going to die,” recalls Darlene. Discovery of her tumor was anything but a death sentence.
Doctors believe being pregnant saved her life and said if she wasn’t pregnant the signs wouldn’t have been recognized and they may not have been found in time to save her.
Pain free for the first time in months, Darlene weighed her options and decided not to endure chemotherapy or radiation during her third trimester, and instead enjoyed being pregnant and preparing for her new bundle of joy.
Testing on the removed tumor found Darlene had a genetic condition called Lynch Syndrome, an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer. While pregnant and tumor free, she was seen by the Department of Genetics for testing and counseling. They provided her with all the information about preventive measures she needs to monitor her health, including annual colonoscopies and frequent blood work.
Finally, after a long awaited 38 weeks, baby Lily arrived on August 29, 2009 at 9:15 a.m. weighing 5 pounds, 7 ounces. A healthy baby girl; and thanks to Tufts Medical Center’s physicians, a healthy new mom.
Now, life for Darlene and Ricardo is all about Lily. Lily is a happy and healthy child ready to start kindergarten. Darlene, remains cancer free and will be celebrating her birthday this year with a family trip to Spain. “We love traveling and showing Lily everything life has to offer,” she says.
“We live life differently now and celebrate life each day. I owe everything to Tufts Medical Center. They saved my life, and saved my baby’s life.”
Since the birth of Lily, Darlene has moved all her medical care to Tufts Medical Center including her primary care physician. Lily has been fortunate enough to not need Tufts Children's Hospital’s expertise, but Darlene knows, if she ever does, there is no question where she’ll take her.
Philanthropic support, including fundraising events like Country Heals are vital to the work of our physicians and other caregivers throughout the Medical Center who put our patients’ needs first, each and every day.