Coma mother's baby fights for life life

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The Independent Online
The premature baby girl born to a young mother who has been in a coma for 10 weeks was fighting for her life last night.

Although the condition of the baby, born weighing 3lb 2oz 28 weeks into the pregnancy, was described as critical, her doctors said that she started to show signs of improvement through the day.

Dr Jean Matthes, consultant paediatrician at the Singleton Hospital, Swansea, who is in charge of the baby's care, said that the next 36 hours will be crucial for the survival of Karen Bethan Battenbough, who has been named after her mother.

She said the baby had given cause for concern immediately after delivery and had been given a blood transfusion. "The next two days will be critical, but I think the baby is in with a chance," she said .

Babies born at 28 weeks now have an 80 per cent chance of survival and of those, 20 per cent could suffer brain damage.

Karen was born by Caesarean section at 8am yesterday after her mother's blood pressure had started to drop, putting the baby's safety at risk. Since Monday, the condition of Mrs Battenbough, 24, who went into a deep coma after being involved in a car accident on the M4, had been worrying doctors who had hoped that the pregnancy could be maintained for 34 weeks.

Finally, Dr John Clavert, consultant obstetrician, decided to bring forward the delivery and Mrs Battenbough was transferred from the Morriston Hospital to the Singleton, a regional centre for babies needing special care, where an emergency Caesarean was performed. The Singleton has 26 special-care baby beds and eight cots for very premature babies.

A hospital spokesman said that Karen's mother, who suffered brain and spinal damage in the accident, was stable and had "recovered well" from the operation. He said she would not have been aware of what had happened.

During the delivery the father, Mike Battenbough, 30, who is a care worker, waited in a nearby room. David Williams, chief executive of the hospital, said yesterday: "He [Mr Battenbough] is overjoyed that the baby has been delivered live, but obviously very concerned for his wife."

David Edwards, professor of neonatal medicine at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, said of Karen's future: "It all depends on how good the baby's lungs are and what might have happened in the womb."

A potential anxiety for her progress is whether or not she suffered oxygen deprivation at the time of her mother's accident or immediately afterwards because of shock and reduced blood pressure, he said.

Bitter-sweet day, page 3