I'm happy to share today a story originally written by Tslia Stone for the newsletter of the Mothers' Milk Bank of New England. It profiles a donor milk recipient family, including their struggle to get insurance coverage for donor milk.
Roopesh and Sumitha Mathur live in Lebanon, New Hampshire. In early 2010, Sumitha was pregnant and expected their baby to be born in early May, but in February, their obstetrician suspected something unusual about the baby’s development. In fact, an ultrasound on March 11 revealed that the baby was suffering from intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a condition in which the placenta no longer supplies enough nutrition to the baby, which necessitates immediate delivery.
The doctors induced labor and Nikhil was born on March 15 at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Though he arrived eight weeks early, weighing 2 pounds and one ounce, he was relatively healthy for such a tiny fellow and he took up temporary residence in the NICU. Sumitha began expressing breastmilk for her baby and storing it for his future use. When he was approximately 4 weeks old, he began to be fed her milk through his feeding tube.
In April, Nikhil was given medication for Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), a condition where the ductus arterious that bypasses the lungs in-utero and usually seals itself off soon after birth, is still open. His blood pressure shot up as a result of his underdeveloped kidneys’ inability to clear the medication, but his doctors were able to control this with medications (Propraponol and then Analepril). By early May Nikhil weighed around 4 pounds and the state of his health was steadily improving and stabilizing. He came home at around the time of his original due date in May.
Periodic testing of Nikhil’s kidney function determined that the amount of protein in an all-formula diet could not be processed by his growth-restricted kidneys and the protein leakage could cause permanent damage. In August, his pediatrician and his nephrologist (physician specializing in kidney care) prescribed breastmilk and suggested finding a milk bank.
Roopesh contacted Andrea Suh, MMBNE’s Outreach Director, and Nikhil received his first shipment of donor milk from MMBNE in August. His doctors at DHMC, with assistance from MMBNE, tried to convince the family’s private insurance to cover the costs. In fact the hospital devoted the full-time efforts of a staff member to the assignment of following-up with the insurance company, but with unsatisfactory results.
In the meantime, both Nikhil and his mother Sumitha are demonstrating quiet fortitude in the face of their challenges: Nikhil was introduced to solids in October and is “very interested in food!” says his father; Sumitha is pumping again and, with the aid of galactogogues and determined perseverance, she is producing 4-6 oz. of milk a day!
At nine months old, Nikhil weighs 13 pounds, and he is a healthy, thriving baby. He is still taking Analepril to control the protein leakage through the kidneys, which will continue until the testing shows that he has outgrown the problem. In addition to solid food, he consumes two to three 6 oz. bottles of breastmilk a day, a combination of human donor milk from MMBNE and his mother’s milk. Sumitha intends to continue pumping in order to provide him with her own milk at least until he reaches one year of age, when she plans to introduce cow’s milk.
All of our best wishes go out to the Mathurs for peace and health as they continue to delight in their wonderful family.