Canberra mother with one lung defied odds and had a baby

24 November 2013 1:08 PM

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Canberra mother with one lung defied odds and had a baby

Every parent thinks their child is one in a billion, but for little Archie Taber, even his mother's doctors agree.

Victoria Taber has never been a smoker but a routine X-ray before a teacher exchange in December 2009 showed a shadow.

Less than two weeks later she was in John James Hospital having her left lung removed and starting on 16 rounds of chemotherapy for lung cancer.

She was 29 years old and newly married, a school teacher who had planned to have children with her husband Luke.

Associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Australian National University Steve Robson worked with a team of physicians to make sure the couple's dream could come true.

''I'm in the process of writing up Victoria's case for the medical literature and she appears to be one of two or possibly three in the whole world who has successfully given birth with one lung, so we reckon her case is one-in-a-billion situation,'' Dr Robson said.

Dr Robson said 16 rounds of chemotherapy should have played havoc with Mrs Taber's fertility but she was pregnant one month after the couple started trying.

''It's extraordinarily lucky to become pregnant and, secondly, with one lung, when you look at the literature, it's all ancient history. When the lungs were removed for tuberculosis we couldn't find any guidance in the medical literature on how to proceed for a patient with one lung,'' he said.

Ms Taber's respiratory physician determined her lung would be able to provide enough oxygen for herself and the baby until she was 36 weeks pregnant.

A natural birth was out of the question as the exertion of labour could kill the unborn child or the mother.

The operation was performed under general anaesthetic as a spinal tap or epidural could affect her already laboured breathing.

But for Mrs Taber it was all worthwhile. She said meeting son Archie for the first time two hours after he was born was indescribable although the actual pregnancy was tough. ''The first 20 weeks I felt sick. It was like having chemo,'' she said.

The five-year survival rate after lung cancer is only 15 per cent but Mrs Taber is staying positive.

''Every six months [except during pregnancy] I have a chest X-ray,'' she said.


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