Mother's hunch may have saved her baby's life

POSTED: Saturday, May 19, 2012 - 1:00pm

UPDATED: Saturday, May 19, 2012 - 1:04pm

Mother's Day celebrates that special bond between a mother and her child.

Part of that bond is what is known as a mother's intuition, and one mom is grateful that she trusted hers.

She will be celebrating her first Mother's Day knowing that her intuition likely saved her baby girl's life.

Ava Browning weighed eight pounds 15 ounces at birth.

She then dropped down to 8 pounds 8 ounces and held steady.

"I kept saying there's something wrong," says Jessica Browning.

First time mom Jessica was told it may be her breast milk or feeding issues, but she refused to brush off her worries.

"I finally went to the doctor and I said 'Listen, she should've gained her birth weight by now. We should not be wearing newborn clothes at 6 weeks and newborn diapers'," she says.

She took Ava to Texas Children's Hospital where in cruel irony her worst fears were confirmed.

Ava was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare cancerous tumor on her liver.

"The minute I heard blastoma I knew it was cancer and my heart fell," Jessica recalls.

There are only 150 cases each year in the U.S.

"In a child that's 6 weeks old, this is very unusual. Most of the children are a couple years in age," notes pediatric surgeon Dr. Eugene Kim.

Dr. Kim was also struck by the sheer size of the tumor.

It was as big as a Texas-sized grapefruit.

"It clearly looks like at least 2/3rds of her abdomen was taken up by the tumor," he says.

Specialists with Texas Children's Hospital's Liver Tumor Center first tried a round of chemo, but the tumor didn't shrink much.

So in a bold move for a child just 11 weeks old the tumor was taken out in tact, amazingly, without much damage to Ava's liver.

"You couldn't ask for better results in terms of surgery," says pediatric oncologist Dr. Patrick Thompson.

Ava will undergo another two cycles of chemo and should be just fine.

"I'm extremely hopeful. I think her prognosis is excellent," Dr. Thompson says.

Doctors still aren't sure whether Ava's tumor developed in utero or at birth.

If left untreated, it could've spread to other organs, including her lungs. 

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