Hope grows for crash mother's unborn baby

Doctors plan to extend life of a brain-damaged woman for sake of her child. Celia Hall reports

Karen Battenbough and her husband, Michael, on a holiday before the crash that left her in a coma

Doctors were optimistic yesterday that the baby being carried by a young woman profoundly brain damaged in a car accident will survive.

Karen Battenbough, the 24-year-old Swansea mother now in the 25th week of her pregnancy, is stable in a coma at Morriston Hospital's neurosurgical unit, Swansea. Her baby is moving and developing normally.

John Calvert, the obstetrician who has been looking after Mrs Battenbough from before the accident, said last night: "We are happy with the situation at present. I would like to be able to deliver the baby in 10 weeks' time or later. We shall see how things go. We want to give the baby the best chance and the longer the better."

Mrs Battenbough, who is diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, is breathing without assistance. She is moved regularly to prevent pressure sores and is being fed nasally. The baby is monitored regularly by midwives.

Her husband, Michael, 30, a care worker with the mentally handicapped, maintains a vigil at her bedside. He and their seven-year-old daughter Sarah-Jane, from Mrs Battenbough's first marriage, escaped with minor injuries when the family car he was driving crashed into the back of a parked bus on a M4 slip road near their Swansea home.

"I am hoping against hope that Karen will stay alive until the baby is born," he said.

"She is lying there, alive but not alive. Karen desperately wanted this baby. She will always come first with me, but at the end of the day the baby will be the only thing. It is all I will have left of Karen."

The tragic circumstances are heightened by the fact that Mrs Battenbough had four miscarriages, making this baby particularly precious.

Mr Calvert said the miscarriages had occurred at about 12 weeks of her earlier pregnancies and they were now past that period. They plan to deliver the baby by a Caesarean operation.

Paul Baker, deputy director of operations for the hospital, said the situation was distressing for staff. "All we can say about Karen at the moment is that she is deeply unconscious and that there has been no evidence of recovery of the brain. We are feeding her and keeping her comfortable."

There have been six documented cases of pregnant women who have been kept alive in order to give the babies they were carrying a chance of life.

Babies born prematurely can now survive at about 25 weeks, but the greater the prematurity the greater the risk of brain damage.

"In the circumstances the mothers are incubators. You need circulation and they need to be fed but you don't need a brain for a foetus to develop," one consultant said.

But not all the babies survive. In 1992 a baby was born dead to a young German mother who was brain dead after an accident when she was 13 weeks pregnant. Amid great controversy her life was maintained but she miscarried six weeks later and the baby was too young to survive.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A long-established, technology rich ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable