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Procedure Helps Family Find Happiness After History of Loss

"I’ve been through a lot, reproductively speaking," says Michele "Chele" Arick, 40, of Iowa. Few could argue with her. On the path to parenthood, Chele had suffered multiple losses: five miscarriages, two ectopic pregnancies, and the loss of a son, Matthew, during the 21st week of pregnancy. She also struggled with infertility issues.

It is particularly encouraging that people who have tried so hard to become parents were rewarded with a family that includes five happy, healthy children.

Unthinkable Loss

Chele was diagnosed with cervical insufficiency in 1991 after she lost Matthew at 20 weeks. Chele adopted Kristen, 15; then went on to conceive Jeffrey 8 months later. Vaginal cerclage treatments, full bedrest, medication and regular monitoring helped her through two subsequent successful pregnancies with children Jeffrey, 14; and Emily, 8. But these pregnancies had taken a lot out of Chele, nearly losing Emily at 20 weeks due to a failed transvaginal cerclage (TVC), and she wanted to increase her chances of a successful outcome for her next pregnancy. As a result, she discussed her options with four specialists, including Arthur Haney, MD, at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Michele Arick and her twin girls, Abigail and Alyssa. Chele and her twins, Abigail and Alyssa.

"His demeanor was so encouraging, I decided when I spoke with him on the phone that he would be my doctor," Chele says. "This informative conversation, and the statistics alone on transabdominal cerglage (TAC), convinced me that the TAC way was the only way to go." She and Dr. Haney decided that the best option for her was a prepregnancy TAC. This would help reinforce her cervix so that she had the best chances of having a healthy, full-term baby. "In fact, had I not been able to receive the transabdominal cerclage, I would have decided not to attempt another transvaginal cerclage at all. What a shame that would have been, to not be blessed with my twins!"

Finding Hope in Chicago

In November 2003, Chele came to Chicago for her surgery. Dr. Haney’s bedside manor impressed Chele and her husband, John.. "He treats all of his patients like members of his family," Chele says. "I was extremely nervous, and the last thing I remember before the anesthesia being administered was Dr. Haney holding my hand and telling me that everything was going to be all right. I can’t express to you what a tremendous comfort that was to me."

A week after the surgery, Chele was feeling good enough to stand up and make pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Even sweeter was what happened six months later: she conceived twin girls.

But there were setbacks. Chele was having complications from her pregnancy at 22 weeks. Her doctor in Michigan recommended that she stay in the hospital for the remainder of her pregnancy. "It was really difficult to be without my children during that time," Chele remembers. "Even during this time, Dr. Haney kept in close contact with me, assuring me that the TAC was still providing support, in spite of my cervical problems."

The ultimate payoff was worth it. At 33 weeks, Chele delivered Dr. Haney’s first official twins; two healthy baby girls, Alyssa and Abigail, via C-section. "My local doctors said repeatedly that had I not had the transabdominal cerclage, it’s almost certain that I would have lost the twins."

Life with Five Kids

Today, Chele recognizes how fortunate she is to have her family and wants other parents and parents-to-be to find the same comfort she has found. "After having a failed TVC, women feel quite hopeless because they believe they have lost their only option. Then there are women who are not candidates for transvaginal cerclage due either to congenital or surgical reasons or because they have had a previous failed TVC, so they get very depressed." Essentially, there is a lot of outdated and/or misinformation out there.

To help women become more aware of their options, Chele is owner and founder of Abbyloopers, an online source of information and support that has existed since 2002 for women considering abdominal cerclage. Currently, more than 700 women are members of the online group.

Chele says she has always been proactive about her health and encourages other women to find the facts about their reproductive options. "The more we get the word out, the more families can realize their dream of having children. It is not only a passion and one dear to my heart, but I feel it’s my mission! Knowledge is power!"

Mandy's Transabdominal Cerclage Story

Like Michele, Mandy Polatty was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix. Mandy's condition was diagnosed at 19 weeks into her second pregnancy, but a transvaginal cerclage treatment was unsuccessful, and she lost the baby a week later. After having a transabdominal cerclage procedure at the University of Chicago Medicine, Mandy delivered a healthy girl, Aubrey. » Read Mandy's story

March 2008

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