Annalise’s Kidney Abnormality: Part I

So far, I’ve kept this subject out of the “public” eye. It was too personal. Too difficult. I didn’t want all the obligatory condolences and prayers (even if many were genuine). We needed support, but we went to our closest friends and family. Thank you to each of you, who were there through this journey. We needed you.

But now I’m ready to put this out in cyberspace – because I want other moms or moms-to-be to read this, and find comfort in our experience. I believe knowledge is power, and the most comforting thing in a trying circumstance is knowing what lies ahead. This will be a multi-part series, because there are so many stages. But back to the beginning…

It was December of 2010. I was 22 weeks pregnant with our first baby. We finally were going to see our baby on the ultrasound – and find out the gender! We were excited beyond words. Yes, the thought floated through my head that if there was anything wrong, we’d also probably find out. We opted out of many early-on prenatal screenings (i.e. to find down’s syndrome), so this was our first glimpse of the health of baby. But really, I wasn’t thinking there would be anything wrong. I just wanted to find out WHAT THE HECK WE WERE HAVING SO I COULD DECORATE/PLAN/BUY CLOTHES! I’m just being honest.

Jason and I headed to the prenatal diagnostics center here in Charlottesville. My OB doesn’t do ultrasounds in house, so we go to the best place in the area (which is great to have local!). As we sat in the waiting room, I saw a good friend behind the receptionist’s counter. At the time, he was doing a part-time residency as a genetic counselor at the office. So when we were escorted back to the u/s room, he came along and we caught up while we were waiting for the nurse. She came in, and was taking lots of shots: brain, head, heart, genitals (it’s a girl! AHHH!), umbilical cord, placenta, kidneys….wait, redo: right kidney. left kidney. another position. right kidney. left kidney. “Hmmm…nothing to be worried about, but I’m going to get the doctor to take a second look here.” So…we didn’t worry. We continued to chat with our friend as the doctor came in, soaking up that we were having a DAUGHTER. Even the doc joined in with our conversation, like we were all best friends. I only realized something was more serious when the doc said, “Interesting…… know, you never want to hear your doctor to say ‘interesting.'”

Then I stopped chatting. I completely changed – warning bells started to go off. My heart started pounding. Everyone else disappeared. WHAT WAS WRONG? I have no recollection of when our friend stepped out of the room – obviously he did at some point. There was no more chatting. Jason and I were glued to the 10 inch u/s monitor as the doctor glided the wand around on my belly. As I careened my head toward the screen and asked a bazillion questions, the doctor must have realized that this was the first we’d heard of the problem. He’d thought we’d been referred to his office because our regular OB had seen it first (which apparently happens a lot in their office). We calmly tried to explain that NO!-we-had-no-idea-so-stop-chichatting-and-tell-me-what-is-going-on. He apologized for being so flippant about his earlier comments, and then saved himself said to me, “For this being the first time you’ve seen this problem, you’re handling this very well.” Those words were like goldfish crackers to a toddler – I instantly became much more relaxed, releasing the grip on the u/s table, and allowing grace for this doctor, who was just doing his job.

After lots of pictures and fishing around, the doctor had gathered that Annalise’s right kidney was partially dilated (or enlarged) on the upper lobe. And there was probably a renal duplication on the right kidney, meaning two ureters came out and headed toward the bladder, instead of one. He assumed there was some obstruction in the ureter somewhere, which was preventing the proper emptying of the kidney. “Not to worry,” the doc said, “If I had to choose to have some abnormality or problem in my baby, this would be it. 99% of the time the kidney will work itself out, even before birth.” He said that worst case scenario would mean corrective surgery (SURGERY????). He handed me a slip of paper with the words “UPJ obstruction” and “renal duplication,” since those were new vocabulary words at the time. We’d be back for another prenatal ultrasound to check on the kidney’s development, and he expected it to look normal.

We came back for several follow-up ultrasounds before Annalise was born. Each time, they expected her kidney to have corrected itself (which apparently happens often). Each time, we walked away with another appointment scheduled. I think our last appointment was around 36 weeks gestation, and I was given the contact information for the UVA pediatric urologist (also local to us). Annalise would be passed into his hands, via her pediatrician’s recommendation. It became much more real and scary to go from “baby in womb with problem” to “baby with a pediatrician and urologist.” It seemed more tangible. More expensive. More costly. More life or death.

In March, Annalise was born with no complications, thank God. Our pediatrician was soon filled in with all the history of Annalise’s prenatal ultrasounds. He was familiar with the whole kidney problem thing, having been a pediatrician for 25+ years. Like the u/s doctors, he wasn’t the least bit worried or concerned, which always reassured us. Our pediatrician had worked with this particular pediatric urologist before, and again thought that her kidney would still work itself out on its own.

But just for precautionary sake, we scheduled an appointment with UVA’s pediatric urology department. There, we’d meet the man, who would become so influential in our daughter’s life.


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2 Responses to “Annalise’s Kidney Abnormality: Part I”

  1. Annalise’s Kidney Abnormality – Part II « Baked With Yeast Says:

    […] if the title leads you to think you missed something, you probably did! Read/skim Part I to catch […]

  2. Annalise’s Kidney Abnormality – Part IV « Baked With Yeast Says:

    […] series after we heard the news that Annalise will need corrective surgery on her right kidney. (See Parts I, II, and III to catch […]

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