New mom shares story of how Houston doctor saved her baby's life

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A couple beat the odds and are now gushing over their newborn baby girl.

"She's been a delight. A long awaited gift," said 38-year-old Anne Briggs-Cheng.

Anne and her husband Mark said their struggle to bring their baby girl into the world was not without its share of complications and heartbreak.

The couple met online in May 2019 and lived in different parts of China at the time. As the two fell in love, Anne said she was very upfront about the likelihood of them having a baby together.

The two married in Taiwan in June 2020.

"Almost 12 years that I hadn't had a menstrual cycle," Anne said.

The following spring, they decided to try having a family with IVF.

"It was pretty hard to swallow," said Mark. "I love kids, but at the same time, I just have hope."

However, Anne says just before Mother's Day in 2021, the IVF transfer failed.

"It was a pretty low point last spring of just dealing with some of that disappointment."

The following August, the couple received an unexpected surprise while visiting family in Maine. Anne found out she was pregnant, the natural way.

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"We were so blown away. We were like 'How is this possible?'" Mark said.

They said their happiness later turned to heartbreak when Anne learned 20 weeks into her pregnancy that the baby developed pleural effusion and hydrops. That's when large amounts of fluid accumulate in the baby's lungs.

Mark said Taiwanese doctors told them the baby probably would not survive.

"They said, 'You should abort her, just end the pregnancy,' and we're like, 'What?'" he said.

Anne underwent two failed procedures to permanently drain the fluid from the baby's lungs. She said a childhood friend and OBGYN in Dallas recommended Dr. Ramesha Papanna, who is a high-risk pregnancy specialist at UTHealth Houston and Children's Memorial Hermann.

Papanna met with the Chengs and discussed the baby's condition.

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"It's rare. One in 10,000 pregnancies," said Dr. Papanna. "Sometimes it can happen because something else is going on. Heart failure in the baby, and baby being anemic."

Dr. Papanna called around the world to locate a rocket shunt to place into the developing baby's chest. He found a device from a physician in Canada.

Mark and Anne flew from Taiwan to Houston on Christmas Day for the life-saving procedure, knowing their baby girl might not survive the trip.

Dr. Papanna performed the surgery on December 26 and said the surgery was a quick process.

"The procedure went very well. It was a two-minute procedure, and that's all it took," he said.

Anne remained under the doctor's care for three months until she gave birth on March 18.

The shunt was removed at birth.

The word, "Hope," which the couple said has carried them through this emotional process, is now baby Abigail's middle name.

They said it's a reminder of the journey that led them to this year's Mother's Day.

The couple said they are so thankful for Dr. Papanna who saved their baby's life and for the healthy lungs that are now filled with sweet cries from Abigail.

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