Maisy Vignes’s entire blood supply was absorbed by her mother, Emma Vignes, 31,
during pregnancy. But she survived, much to the bafflement of medics, who said it was “unheard of”. It was feared that Maisy, born six weeks premature in December 2009, would be left brain damaged after being starved of oxygen in the womb.
“There were previous cases of children being born with tiny amounts of blood, but Maisy had a haemoglobin level of a flat zero. “There were cases recorded of people surviving with a haemoglobin level of four, but for any human to survive after having no blood at all was unheard of.”
Mrs Vignes, who is married to Mook, 31, a graphic designer, experienced a problem-free pregnancy until the 34th week. She said: “I had a feeling something was very wrong. I was experiencing worrying bloating and Maisy had stopped moving completely. “I attended an appointment at hospital the next day and before I knew it the consultants were telling me I needed to go for an emergency cesarean section. I was wheeled down to theatre before I had a chance to tell anyone. “I didn’t expect to give birth six weeks early. I’d had no problems up to that point so to find things moving so quickly so suddenly was very confusing and frightening. “Immediately after Maisy was born she was rushed to intensive care. Mrs Vignes said: “I didn’t have the chance to see her before she was taken away. Nurses kept rushing in to keep me updated, but everyone was very glum and serious-faced. “I learned that Maisy had no blood – just a thin, plasma substance in her veins. They tried to find a vein to take a sample but they couldn’t draw any out.
She had the first of her blood transfusions through her umbilical cord. “Mook was able to see her in the incubator and she was unnaturally pale.” By the time Mrs Vignes was able to see her daughter for the first time, her breathing apparatus had been removed but she was still being fed through a tube. She said: “She was surrounded by wires, but she looked stronger than I expected. I couldn’t breastfeed her. “She had two more transfusions and a platelet transfusion over the next two weeks. She was able to come home on Christmas Day, which was the greatest gift we could imagine.”
There was a nervous wait as Mr and Mrs Vignes observed their daughter carefully for signs of lasting damage. Mrs Vignes said: “We were warned that Maisy might have brain damage because she was effectively starved of oxygen. “The big milestone was to see whether she would start talking before 18 months. If she did, it would be a good sign that her brain was developing in the right manner. “When she said her first word – ‘dadda’ – at 15 months, it was a huge relief and a very emotional moment.”
Mrs Vignes said it remains a mystery how Maisy, who against all odds has started in the Holy Cross National Primary School in Tramore, had been born with no blood. She said: “My own blood was tested and they found that all the blood in her tiny body had been absorbed into mine, which explained the swelling I had experienced. “In cases where something similar had happened there was usually a trauma at some point during the pregnancy “Nothing like that happened during my pregnancy. The best theory the doctors have come up with is that membranes in the womb rubbed together, causing a rupture, which led to Maisy’s blood leaving her body and going into mine. “No-one’s entirely sure. It will probably stay an unanswered question.”
Mrs Vignes gave birth to the couple’s second child, their son Ellis, four months ago. Despite fears that the phenomenon would recur, the delivery at Waterford Regional Hospital, where Maisy was cared for, was problem-free. She said: “I was surrounded by doctors in the delivery suite because everyone was terrified it would happen again.
As it turned out, Ellis was born perfectly healthy, a week overdue. “As far as I know, there have been no other cases like Maisy’s recorded anywhere in the world. She’s become the subject of lectures and journal articles, and all the doctors ask about her when we go back into hospital. “She’s an amazing little girl and we’re so happy together as a family. We don’t plan to have any more children for the time being – we’ve been through quite enough.
The Interview with Emma & Maisy Vignes can be heard this weekend on the hourly news bulletins.