PITTSBURGH Unusual delivery brings fame
The specialist has received national attention for her part in the rare, successful delivery of a healthy baby carried by a comatose mother.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR HEALTH WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Jennifer Uvena knew as a child she wanted to be a doctor.
Having scoliosis, or lateral curvature of the spine, and wearing a back brace as a teenager solidified her desire to study medicine.
Fast-forward 20 years, and the dream is reality.
At 34, Uvena, now Dr. Jennifer Celebrezze, is an obstetrician and gynecologist specializing in high-risk obstetrics and gestational and juvenile diabetes at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
While appearing on national television and being interviewed by numerous media were probably not part of her childhood plan, her position as a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Allegheny brought her face to face last year with a rare high-risk case.
She performed a Caesarean delivery of a healthy baby whose mother was comatose.
The birth of Michael Anthony Clark, known as "Mac," is one of only a dozen documented successful births by comatose mothers, according to Dr. Ronald Thomas, Dr. Celebrezze's senior partner in their practice, Allegheny Perinatal Associates. He is also director of the maternal and fetal medicine program at Allegheny General.
Here is what happened:
According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, on June 15, 2002, a Butler County woman, whom authorities said was under the influence of alcohol and talking on a cellular phone, crossed the center line on Neupert Road in Jefferson Township and crashed her sports utility vehicle into a pickup truck driven by Glenn Clark, 38, of Saxonburg.
Clark, a Mars Area School District teacher and wrestling coach, died later that day. His pregnant wife, Annette, who suffered severe head and spinal injuries, was taken to Allegheny General Hospital's trauma center for treatment.
Drs. Celebrezze and Thomas were called in to consult on the case when it was discovered Annette was pregnant.
The focus was first on the mother, who was then, and remains, in a coma. She is being cared for in an undisclosed nursing facility.
Once Annette's condition was stabilized, the attention turned to unborn Mac.
"Mac's a miracle in all respects. Annette's body knew what to do. He's a beautiful child; red hair just like Annette," Dr. Celebrezze said.
"Bev Miller, Annette's mother, says there isn't a minute that goes by that she doesn't think about what she lost. But I think Mac's a positive reminder for Annette's family."
Annette was about 10 weeks pregnant when she was injured. She stayed in the hospital for 15 weeks, then was cared for in a nursing facility. She was then brought back to Allegheny General's high-risk birth unit, where she stayed until Mac was delivered Nov. 22, 2002, at 34 weeks.
It was at that point that doctors felt Mac's lungs had matured, and they didn't want to take a chance on complications in the womb.
How Mac is doing
Dr. Celebrezze said she is not aware of Mac's having any physical or developmental problems. He was in the hospital for a week for stabilization and until he learned to eat from a bottle. The last time she saw him was Christmas Eve, she said.
"I got a chance to hold him. He's up to 7 pounds already, and is apparently doing great," she said.
Annette's sister, Michelle Phillips, and her husband, Matthew, have temporary custody of Mac. They also have a 5-month-old child of their own.
"We really had two patients to care for. Special concerns, in a coma, are infection from pneumonia or bed sores, as well as nutrition ... making sure she got enough calories to maintain her own functions and to allow the baby to mature," Dr. Celebrezze said.
The unusual birth attracted national attention, and Dr. Celebrezze was interviewed on the "Today" and "Connie Chung Tonight" national television shows and by many publications and electronic media.
Dr. Celebrezze, who is routinely involved in the emotional and medical highs and lows of high-risk deliveries as part of her job, admits to having special feelings about this case.
"It was very bittersweet," she said.
"Obviously, for us, there was not a dry eye in the delivery room. Our nurses had cared for Annette for 10 weeks," Dr. Celebrezze said.
Here was this healthy 5-pound 12-ounce boy, delivered by a mother who might never know him and see him develop, and who will never know his father.
"From my standpoint, being a mother, I'm looking at Annette's mother, Bev Miller, excited at having her first grandchild, but knowing what she lost.
"You couldn't help but get involved. Whenever I'm up on labor and delivery ... Annette was in that room for so long. It's weird to see other patients in her room," she said.
Dr. Celebrezze said she enjoys delivering babies, and also the high-risk aspects of her specialty, even though there are not always happy outcomes.
"Every delivery is a miracle. It's an unbelievable experience. I'm so lucky to get to share in that with so any patients.
"But, when things go wrong, I give my kids an extra kiss and hug that night. Having your own little peanuts does help. It makes you thankful," she said.