Pioneering blood therapy helps mom deliver a healthy baby

MaKeise Faison-Ricks and her husband, Donald, are thankful to Sheri Hamersley, M.D., for helping them have something they thought they never would—a family.

MaKeise Faison-Ricks and her husband, Donald, are thankful to Sheri Hamersley, M.D., for helping them have something they thought they never would—a family.

MaKeise Faison-Ricks calls her two sons her miracle babies.

“I am a blessed woman,” she says. “Shady Grove Adventist Hospital gave me something I never thought I would have based on my medical history—a family.”

Her youngest, Christopher, was delivered in November after Shady Grove Adventist Hospital became the first in Maryland to use a treatment called Thrombate III to counteract the hereditary condition antithrombin III deficiency.

“It’s a rare blood deficiency, where a patient could be at 75 percent lifetime risk of clotting,” explains Sheri Hamersley, M.D., an obstetrician at Shady Grove Adventist who specializes in maternal fetal medicine. “These risks are increased during pregnancy, delivery or any surgical procedure.”

Obstetrician Michelle Spector, M.D., delivered Christopher and Dr. Hamersley co-managed the high-risk case.

Thrombate III therapy involves providing a specific preparation of intravenous medication to the patient.

“It was exciting, because it was the first time we gave a factor-specific treatment to prevent a blood clot, as opposed to just a blood thinner in general,” Dr. Spector says.

Adds Dr. Hamersley, “This innovative therapy allows us to approximate the right recipe to make sure the blood is not too thick and not too thin.” Dr. Hamersley is also the physician who diagnosed Faison-Ricks’ antithrombin III deficiency.

After the diagnosis, Faison-Ricks traveled from her home in Charles County, Md., to receive care from Dr. Hamersley. “I didn’t mind driving those extra miles because I was confident Dr. Hamersley could help ensure a successful, healthy pregnancy,” Faison-Ricks says.

With her second son, she also began meeting with Dr. Spector for prenatal care. “Despite all her risk factors, she was always positive,” Dr. Spector says. “She would say, ‘I’m going to do whatever I need to do to have a healthy baby.’ ”

Over the past eight years, Faison-Ricks and her husband, Donald, experienced a heartbreaking string of pregnancy losses.

“We kept asking ourselves, ‘Why does this keep happening?’ There had to be a reason,” Faison-Ricks says. “I never knew why until Dr. Hamersley ran those blood tests.”

Faison-Ricks took blood thinners during her pregnancy with her older son, Dominick, but she had to be taken off the medicine 48 hours before she delivered him in 2008. “He was a cesarean,” Faison-Ricks says. “There was a fear that if I had that surgery, my blood would clot.”

With her second son, Faison-Ricks and Dr. Hamersley petitioned to get Maryland’s first-ever obstetrical Thrombate III therapy approved by insurance. “It was very reassuring that with the treatment,” Faison-Ricks says, “I wasn’t going to have the clotting problem with Christopher.”

Both of Faison-Ricks’ sons spent time in Shady Grove Adventist Hospital’s Level IIIB Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where she says they received excellent, compassionate care. Today, Dominick, 2 years old, and Christopher, 6 months, are thriving. Perhaps most important, Dr. Hamersley notes, is the fact that a possible health factor for both boys has been identified and can be monitored in the future.

“Since antithrombin III deficiency is inherited, you are not only prolonging the patient’s life with the diagnosis, you could be diagnosing family members,” Dr. Hamersley says. “You are decreasing their lifetime risk of clotting and dying at an early age.”