Oklahoma cancer patient trades her life so her baby could survive

BY SONYA COLBERG scolberg@opubco.com Published: October 16, 2011

Stacie Crimm called her brother with astonishing news.

“You're not going to believe this,” she said.

She laughed and cried all at once that day in March as she explained that five pregnancy tests showed she would be having a child. It was a joyous surprise at age 41 but even more so because she'd been told she would never be able to get pregnant, said her brother, Ray Phillips.

But even as she shopped for clothes for the child she longed to hold in her arms, she knew something was not right.

She sent 159 text messages about her pregnancy to her brother in the months that followed. Many were joyful but then the bone-chilling messages came in during the predawn hours. She said severe headaches and double vision tortured her while tremors wracked her entire body.

“I'm worried about this baby,” she texted.

“I hope I live long enough to have this baby,” said another message. “Bubba, if anything happens to me, you take this child.”

Initially, she and her brother used the Internet to try to diagnose her illness. The single mother-to-be had been exposed to mold while she was remodeling her home and her symptoms seemed to match up to mold exposure.

At her family's encouragement, she visited a number of doctors. In July, a CT scan revealed that she had head and neck cancer.

Now she had to choose between her life and her baby's life. Phillips said she agonized only for a while before deciding against taking potentially lifesaving chemotherapy in hopes that she would soon hold a healthy baby in her arms.

The turning point

Crimm collapsed at her home in Ryan and was rushed to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City on Aug. 16. Doctors said that the invasive tumor had begun wrapping around the brain stem, slowing squeezing the life out of Crimm.

But on a beautiful sunny morning two days later, Crimm felt good enough to sit on the edge of her hospital bed to visit with her brother. He returned to his medical equipment business in Edmond with a lighter heart.

At noon, the baby's heart rate plummeted. Then Crimm's heart stopped 90 minutes later. With “code blue” issued, doctors and nurses rushed to resuscitate her and decided it was best to take the 2-pound, 1-ounce baby, Dottie Mae, by C-section.

Phillips raced back to the hospital, where the baby was in neonatal intensive care and the mother was in intensive care in a separate building.

“Sister was dying right there. She was gasping,” he said. “The human body fights death.”

A mother's will

Crimm's will was so strong she got off the ventilator and was no longer under sedation after several days.

“There was still a lot of hope at that point,” said Jennifer Phillips, Ray Phillips' wife.

Doctors told the family that a treatment plan developed for Crimm could offer a small chance of surviving the aggressive cancer.

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