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For women, kidney failure usually brings an end to the potential for having children. But Cortney Farias, 29, may be the first to beat the odds, twice.
It’s exceptionally rare for dialysis patients to become pregnant, let alone to carry a child to a healthy birth. The ability to carry a pregnancy to term or near-term is usually a result of increasing the frequency of dialysis treatments, changes in diet and medications, and more frequent doctor visits. Farias, of Palm Springs, CA, is believed to be the first person to have children on both peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis.
“It’s not an overstatement to say it’s very, very rare for someone to get pregnant on dialysis,” said Farias’ nephrologist, Dr.Rodolfo Batarse. “It’s even rarer to have a viable pregnancy, and the odds are astronomical to have it happen a second time. To me and my colleagues’ knowledge, there hasn’t been a case of someone being pregnant on both peritoneal and hemodialysis.” Farias’ journey began when she was only 19 years old. She began feeling sick and rapidly deteriorated to the point where weakness and swelling landed her in the hospital.
“When I went to the emergency room, the nurse looked horrified and made me put on a mask,” Farias said. “She thought I had some sort of deadly virus.”
She was eventually diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease known as Goodpasture’s syndrome, a condition where antibodies attack the kidneys and lungs. Her kidneys had already failed. ”I pounded and kicked my feet. I thought I was too young, that it wasn’t fair,” she said, recalling her diagnosis. “I had to face the possibility that I would never have a normal life again, that I may never walk down the aisle, or have children.”
Farias was placed on hemodialysis and underwent immunosuppressant and steroid therapies. Despite being in and out of the hospital on a regular basis, she ended up marrying her longtime boyfriend, Jesse, and was soon pregnant.
“My doctors said the chances of having a healthy baby while on dialysis were slim,” she said. “I had that in my head, but I told the doctors I would keep the baby and I did hemodialysis six days a week to better the chances.”
After 34 weeks, Farias’ first child, Prominence Laliece, was born. Aside from being small, just under 5 pounds, she was healthy. At six years of age, Prominence is an active child, who enjoys taking her karate lessons. The blessing also came with an added bonus for Farias - her kidney function improved and she was able to go off of dialysis for three years.
When Goodpasture’s syndrome again flared up, she was back on dialysis, but this time she opted for peritoneal dialysis, a system in which blood is filtered in the abdominal cavity. There is not a lot of information on peritoneal dialysis patients and pregnancy, so when Farias got pregnant a second time, she was in uncharted territory.
”When she came to me, she was pregnant and on peritoneal dialysis, I had never heard of anything like it before,” Dr. Batarse said. “I conducted a lot of research and consulting before moving forward. It really was an unusual case.”
At 28–weeks pregnant, Farias was placed in the hospital to undergo peritoneal dialysis for 18 hours a day. Six more weeks passed before a healthy boy, Silas Joel Farias, entered the world. Farias has been thankful that she has been able to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother, overcoming all the odds placed before her. It’s a blessing she is constantly thankful for.
”I’ve learned not to take anything for granted and to make sure each day counts,” she said. “Sometimes I worry about not being able to be there for my kids, but then I remember all the other kidney patients who were unable to have kids and I love every day as if it’s my last.”