Posted by: Scott | Friday, January 5, 2007

Katrina Rescued Baby About To be Born reports on stored embryos in LA:

The baby album for Rebekah Markham’s soon-to-be-born child could include something extra special: photos of officers using flat-bottomed boats to rescue the youngster’s frozen embryo from a sweltering hospital in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Markham is about to give birth via Caesarean section, nine months after being implanted with an embryo that nearly thawed when the flooded hospital lost electricity.

“It’s going to be exciting for the little baby, once he gets old enough to realize what it went through,” said Markham, a 32-year-old physical therapist whose husband, Glen, 42, is a New Orleans police officer. “Katrina’s history. A big part of history.”

The baby — the Markhams do not know whether they are having a boy or a girl, but are guessing it’s a boy — will be one of the first children to be born from the more than 1,400 embryos that were rescued from New Orleans’ Lakeland Hospital two weeks after the storm….

Their embryos, along with those belonging to hundreds of other couples, were kept at the Fertility Institute’s laboratory at the hospital. Two days before Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005, the clinic took steps to protect the embryos by topping off all its tanks with liquid nitrogen and moving them to the third floor.

But Katrina’s eight feet of water knocked out the electricity, and the temperature climbed. A freshly topped-off tank is safe for three to four weeks in an air-conditioned room, but “I’m sure the temperature was over 100 degrees in that hospital,” Dr. Belinda “Sissy” Sartor, a fertility expert for the institute.

Fearing the embryos would be ruined, she contacted a state lawmaker, who called Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and on Sept. 11, Illinois officers on loan to Louisiana set out in National Guard trucks, towing flat-bottomed boats….

In the hospital parking lot, the boats puttered past cars still flooded almost up to their windows. The boats were taken through the flooded halls, and the embryos were floated out. They were taken across town to a hospital that had not flooded.

The embryos, which are kept in separate labeled vials inside the tanks, were undamaged, doctors said.

The Markhams were too busy during Katrina — she and her son fled to a relative’s home, and her husband was on the job — to even think about the fate of the stored embryos, and they did not find out about the rescue until afterward.


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