Keeping Iowa Healthy - Carol Schulte

Keeping Iowa Healthy - Carol Schulte

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Pregnant with leukemia: Perils for Pella mom and baby

Editor's Note: The University of Iowa is the university for Iowa. Over the next few weeks we'll be illustrating the many ways that UI serves our state and shapes Iowa's future.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has been ranked one of "America's Best Hospitals" by U.S. News & World Report since 1990. It has also helped educate nearly half of the physicians in the state of Iowa.

One reason UI Hospitals and Clinics ranks among the best is its commitment to care, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Carol Schulte of Pella, Iowa, knows the benefits of that commitment first-hand.

Schulte's battle began in May 2009 when she was diagnosed with recurrent leukemia, a life-threatening of cancer of the blood or bone marrow. Treatment at a Des Moines hospital led to remission in October.

Schulte’s leukemia returned 10 months later while she was 26 weeks pregnant. She persevered with help from a team of physician specialists at UI Hospitals and Clinics and UI Children’s Hospital. Among the specialists was Dr. Jennifer Niebyl, a nationally known obstetrician-gynecologist who gave Schulte three options to consider:

  • Immediate cesarean-section
  • Cesarean-section in two weeks when the unborn baby would be 28 weeks
  • Chemotherapy with a goal of getting the unborn baby to 30 weeks

“I had to throw fear out the door,” Schulte recalls. “I prayed often.”

Ultimately, Schulte chose chemotherapy, which jump started her treatment for leukemia and—thanks to high-risk obstetricians—ended up getting the baby to 33 weeks, thereby improving the baby’s chances for survival.

Indeed, after her delivery on Nov. 5, 2010, Faith spent the next 18 days receiving ‘round the clock care from neonatal specialists at UI Children’s Hospital. During this time Schulte became a “commuter mom” of sorts, devoting waking hours to her family (including six other children) in Pella, Iowa, and nights back in Iowa City.

Carol Schulte with her daughter Faith. (UIHC)Carol Schulte with her daughter Faith. Photo courtesy of UI Hospitals and Clinics.

The entire process worked well, and Faith was sent home earlier than expected. Faith had been home about a month when Schulte returned to the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at UI for a bone marrow transplant. After the transplant, Schulte spent 13 days in an isolation suite, a necessary precaution against infection. Since there was work to be done, Schulte used a computer to video conference her older children to continue their home-schooling.

Schulte returned home on Dec. 30, 2010, cured of her leukemia and thrilled at the idea of reuniting with her family. In all, she and Faith had spent 88 total days in the hospital.

Schulte hopes that by telling her story, others will be inspired.

“I remember being visited by another leukemia patient while I was in the hospital,” she says. “When you see someone like that, on the other side of recovery, you have hope.” And perhaps a measure of faith as well.

Keeping families healthy for IOWA:

• Ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” and the #1 hospital in Iowa by U.S. News & World Report.

• Iowa’s only nationally ranked children’s hospital

• One of only 55 hospitals in the nation to receive three consecutive 4-year Magnet designations for nursing excellence

• Iowa’s only comprehensive academic medical center

• One of fewer than 40 comprehensive cancer centers designated as comprehensive by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institute of Health, and the only one in Iowa

• Iowa’s highest level neonatal intensive care unit with survival rates for babies born at 23, 24, and 25 weeks that are significantly higher than rates for babies born at other U.S. hospitals.

• Specialty care clinics provided throughout 40 Iowa communities

Contacts

Cheryl Hodgson, UI Health Care Marketing and Communications, 319-353-7193
Matt Jansen, Office of Strategic Communication, 319-384-4173

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