It’s not the most comfortable subject, but for around 200 guests it was the subject du jour on Monday, April 30 at the Dallas Country Club. The subject — uterine transplants.
It had been discussed by Dr. Giuliano Testa back in 2015 , at the quarterly meeting of the Baylor Medical Center Foundation quarterly meeting. But the discussion only hinted at what Baylor Scott And White was developing. In November 2017 that all changed with the first birth resulting from a uterus transplant in the U.S. Thanks to his leadership, Time Magazine has included the Italian in the 100 Most Influential People.
But there had been so much more to tell… like the births of two babies for women who had been told they would never give birth to their own children.
The reveal of the developments was provided at a gathering hosted by the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance Foundation, The Laura Bush Institute for Women’s Health and Texas Tech University Health Science Center with Jan Rees-Jones, Debbie Francis, Nancy Dedman, Lee Ann White, Cindrette McDaniel, Joanne Stroud, Tiffany Divis, Lisa Cooley, Jane Pierce and Diane Scovell in attendance.
On stage were Baylor’s Surgical Chief of Abdominal Transplant for Baylor Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute headman Dr. Giuliano Testa and Swedish transplant ob-gyn/uterus transplant surgeon Dr. Liza Johannesson and obstetrician Dr. Robert Gunby. With the help of moderator Teresa Baker, the trio walked the group through the development of the transplant. Surprising to some was the fact that it started in 1931, when headlines were made by Lili Elbe, a man transitioning into a woman. One of the final stages was the transplanting of uterus into the patient. It was such a new frontier, that the patient died within month of the surgery.
Fast forward to 21st century when Swedish doctors started their experimentation using mice and other test animals. To up the ante to primates, the Swedes had to research in other countries due to Sweden’s restrictions. The results were the first two babies born.
Transplant expert Testa told how he had heard about the need for such a surgery. He sought support from Baylor and the work was underway including the addition of Liza Johannesson, who had been part of that earlier Swedish team.
A video was show with a woman who was told she would never be able to have a child due to MRKH Syndrome (Mayer-Rokitanskey-Kuster-Hauser). But after undergoing the transplant, she had her husband welcome a little miracle.
But the day’s focus wasn’t just on the transplanting team. It also included the obstetric team that worked with the mother through her pregnancy. White haired Dr. Gunby, who has welcome around 7,000 North Texas babies into the world, admitted that even the discussion of the pregnancy and delivery turned him emotional. But the photos of the birth that had a SRO crowd of healthcare providers for the moment of birth were amazing. Dr. Gunby told how he wanted to hold the baby up, so the mother could get a first look at her newborn. He added that so many in the delivery room wanted to touch a “true miracle of nature.”
When the time came from questions from the audience, the trio reported:
- The donated uterus may come from either a live or a deceased donor.
- That a vaginal birth was not possible at this time.
- Studies are underway to see if the transplanting of a uterus from a mother to a daughter will reduce the challenges.
- The ability of the uterus to expand as the fetus develops was amazing.
- The team that helps the patient through the pregnancy is made up of a variety of experts ranging from psychologists to obstetricians with transplant expertise.
- The cost of the transplant procedure is costly and difficult for many people to afford.