By Mary Kekatos, Health Reporter
Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and his wife Amena welcomed their daughter Makenna on November 12, one month prematurely.
In July, while still in the womb, she was diagnosed with trisomy 13, a rare chromosomal disorder that left her without a pulmonary heart valve.
HOW CAN YOU BE BORN WITHOUT A HEART VALVE?
Babies born with trisomy 13 have three copies of the 13th chromosome instead of two.
It occurs when cells divide abnormally during reproduction, but why they divide abnormally is unknown.
Trisomy 13 is rare and occurs in just one in 16,000 newborns in the US.
The condition often results in several physical defects including:
- Cleft lips
- Cleft palate
- Extra fingers
- Poorly developed eyes
- Weak muscle tone
In Makenna’s case, she was missing the pulmonary right valve.
This valve is located in the right ventricle, or the lower right chamber, of the heart.
Oxygen-poor blood flows through the valve from the heart to the lungs to be replenished with fresh oxygen, which is then pumped throughout the body.
In babies missing this valve, blood has no way of directly getting from the right ventricle to the lungs.
Babies often develop serious health complications including:
- Breathing difficulties
- Heart defects
- Hearing loss
- High blood pressure
Many babies die within their first days or weeks of life. According to the National Institutes of Health, between five and 10 percent live past their first year.
EXPLAINED: HOW MAKENNA GOT A FATAL STOMACH INFECTION
Two weeks after she was born, Makenna developed an infection in her stomach called necroticizing enterocolitis (NEC).
NEC is a serious disease that affects the intestines of babies and is most common in premature infants do their difficulty with blood and oxygen circulation.
The cause remains unclear, but doctors believe intestinal tissues may be weakened from a lack of oxygen and blood flow.
Bacteria gets into the intestinal wall, which can eventually cause a perforation of the intestines.
The intestines can no longer hold waste so bacteria and stool can leak into the abdomen, which causes infection and even death.
Signs and symptoms include:
- A swollen abdomen
- Trouble feeding
- Slow heart rate
- Low blood pressure
According to Stanford Health, NEC occurs in up to five percent of babies in newborn intensive care units.
Onset of the disease typically occurs in the first two weeks of life and, among those diagnosed, about 25 percent die.
Treatment options include:
- Stopping all feedings temporarily
- Replenishing fluids via IV
- Antibiotics to treat or prevent infection
- Surgery to remove part of the intestine
Makenna had surgery to remove part of her intestine but, during the operation, she also suffered a heart attack.
According to her mother, Makenna kept bleeding from her stomach and, on Thursday, January 3, the seven-week-old passed away.