Groundbreaking care delivers healthy baby girl

Shannon and Mark Lowe were shocked when they found themselves six weeks pregnant. Due to complications from diabetes leading to renal failure, Shannon was told it was unlikely she would ever get pregnant again.

“We never thought I would get pregnant at 41. We were told it was unlikely because of my health, but we never questioned whether or not we would like to try to have this baby,” says Shannon.

Shannon Lowe (left), Mark Lowe (right) and Dr. Shelley Duggan (centre) are happy to have beaten the odds of Shannon’s challenging pregnancy and are blessed to have healthy, happy baby McKenna (centre) in their lives.

Shannon’s kidneys were functioning at 10 per cent, and once she was confirmed pregnant, she needed her blood filtered through hemodialysis. If she chose the most common type of hemodialysis, she would be sitting in a clinic for six days a week, six hours at a time. Simultaneously raising her two children at home seemed an impossible feat.

Her care team, including Dr. Shelley Duggan, Nephrologist, and Dr. Tom Corbett, Obstetrician, decided this unique situation would call for an unprecedented care plan. Together with Shannon they decided to do peritoneal dialysis, in which a cleansing fluid is inserted in the stomach through a catheter and filters waste—this way she could be at home.

Throughout her pregnancy, Shannon Lowe did peritoneal dialysis. A cleansing fluid was inserted into her stomach through a catheter. The fluid filtered waste from her body that her kidneys were unable to.

“There was little research, but we sat back and thought, why couldn’t we do this? Peritoneal dialysis is gentler. We thought, maybe there are benefits to it during pregnancy that haven’t been studied before,” says Shelley.

Within a few days of finding out she was pregnant, Shannon began her dialysis at home. This included having two litres of the cleansing fluid in her stomach constantly to absorb the waste her kidneys could not.

Each week that went by was a relief for her care team. Everyone was cautious not be too hopeful; they were aware the success rate of pregnancy for people on dialysis is only 40 to 60 per cent and can come with complications, including high blood pressure and preterm labour.

Dr. Tom Corbett cradles McKenna after finishing an all-night shift at the hospital. He is pleased to see that the decisions they made in Shannon’s care led to this moment.

“We were all in a new area. We felt like we were breaking ground and were surprised when we were meeting milestones without any deterioration of Shannon’s condition. We were at 10, 12, 16 weeks and realized we were going to continue way further than anticipated,” says Tom.

And then they were at 34 weeks, and Shannon delivered McKenna Lowe, a calm and healthy baby, at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

“We are very grateful to be able to celebrate our beautiful baby girl,” says Tom.

He and Shelley are planning on publishing Shannon’s treatment in the near future, hoping to help other renal failure patients improve their quality of life.

In addition to the Grey Nuns Community Hospital, Shannon would like to say a special thank-you to the team at the University Hospital Aberhart Centre Renal Clinic, especially Dr. Nikhil Shah and her nurse Donna Mallach, who kept Shannon's dialysis on track throughout her pregnancy, and are still a part of her care team today.

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