Coma mother's premature baby fights for her life

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The Independent Online

Medical Editor

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 had started to show signs of improvement.

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

She said that Karen had been given a blood transfusion after birth.

"The next two days will be critical, but I think the baby is in with a chance," she added.

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.

Dr John Calvert, 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.

A spokesman for the Singleton said that Karen's mother 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, waited in a nearby room. He said last night: "As soon as I saw her little face, I saw her mum. She's beautiful and a real fighter - just like Karen.''

David Edwards, professor of neonatal medicine at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, said a potential anxiety for the baby's progress was whether she suffered oxygen deprivation at the time of her mother's accident or immediately afterwards because of shock and reduced blood pressure.

Bitter-sweet day, page 3