Premature drama Despite some setbacks, a 2 1/2-pound baby is doing 'extremely well,' but she's a long way from home

October 25, 1991|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Evening Sun Staff

ALLAN HOLZMAN came home to Baltimore with his family to direct a television series on emergencies. Within 48 hours, the free-lance filmmaker was in the midst of his own.

Now, three months' later, the emergency has become a long-running family drama -- and the last episode has yet to be written.

While visiting from California, Holzman's wife, Susan Justin, gave birth four months early to the couple's second daughter. The baby weighed 1 pound 5 ounces. Now 2 1/2 pounds, Shayne is breathing on her own and healthy enough to be transferred to a hospital near her home in Santa Monica, but the family's insurance company is refusing to pay for the air ambulance to take her there, though in all likelihood it would cost less in the long run to do so.

Because of that, the family may be in Baltimore two more months or until Shayne weighs 5 pounds and can safely go home on a commercial flight.

The family's odyssey began July 16. Justin, 40 years old and five months' pregnant, awoke at 2 a.m. with pains in her stomach.

Holzman called the front desk at the downtown Holiday Inn, where they were staying. He asked for the number of a hospital. The desk clerk connected him with the University of Maryland Hospital.

Justin was told to "see if the pain lasted until morning." It did.

Around 7:30, the couple and their daughter, Justine, took a cab to the hospital. It was Justine's third birthday.

Justin spent most of the day in tests, and pain. By afternoon, Dr. Marshall St. Amant discovered that she was carrying her baby not in her uterus, but in her abdomen; that the placenta had torn away from the uterus, to which it was attached on the outside, and that she was bleeding so much she might die.

Holzman and Justin were told not to hold out much hope for the baby.

St. Amant, who had never seen an abdominal pregnancy outside of a textbook, did an emergency Caesarean section. Abdominal pregnancies occur once in every 15,000 to 30,000 pregnancies, says St. Amant, a specialist in maternal and fetal medicine at University Hospital.

The baby came out "pink and kicking," one of the attending doctors said later. Even though Justin lost half her blood, she was quickly out of the woods.

Today, Holzman and Justin tell their story as they sit calmly in the living room of the Ronald McDonald House on W. Lexington Street, where they have lived for eight weeks. Families of children being treated at

local hospitals for catastrophic illnesses may stay at the house for $10, or less, per night.

Two blocks south, Shayne sleeps in an Isolette in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital. "She's doing extremely well," says Dr. Rose Viscardi, one of several specialists who have cared for Shayne.

A block north of the Ronald McDonald House, Justine is having her first experience with day care at the Downtown Baltimore Child Care Center on Arch Street.

"We're happy at the hospital and we're happy here," says Justin. Still, the family was disappointed last week when it could not go home as planned.

With premature babies, though, setbacks are commonplace. Holzman, who has kept a journal since Shayne's birth, says it's been "a roller coaster ride."

At the age of five days, Shayne was given "bad blood" and became "very critical," says Justin. At about 10 days, there was bleeding in her brain. She lost 4 ounces and was a month old before she returned to her birth weight.

"I cried every time I went to the hospital," Justin says, remembering those early days. "I didn't know if I wanted her to live."

The ups and downs continued, as Shayne gained and lost weight and went on and off life supports. She was almost a month old before her mother could hold her; more than two months old before her big sister could touch her.

Shayne's condition has been stable for several weeks. "We've been really amazed at how well she's done," says Viscardi. It is, however, too soon to know if Shayne will have any long-term effects from her early birth.

Justin bathes her most evenings and spends several hours every day with her -- touching, talking, singing.

Justin has been pumping breast milk six times a day and taking it to the hospital, where it is fed to Shayne almost constantly through a tube into her stomach. Just this week, Shayne nursed for the first time.

Holzman visits his daughter frequently, often in the wee hours of the morning. He reads to her, sometimes for an hour at a time. When she was a few days old, "I opened the pages of Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales and read her the complete story of Little Tiny . . . a one-inch beautiful girl grown from a seed planted in a flower pot," Holzman writes in his journal for July 26.

He grew up in Baltimore but moved away 27 years ago. His parents still live on Fieldcrest Road in the city as they have for years.

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