Townsville baby defies the odds

Townsville baby defies the odds

Thirty-one year old Rachel Kerr from Townsville had a healthy pregnancy until at 14 weeks gestation, she experienced unexpected bleeding. 

Shockingly, Rachel received news that her scans had picked up a rare form of aggressive cervical cancer.

Within a week, Rachel was sent to Mater Mothers’ Hospital in South Brisbane where she faced one of her toughest life decisions—whether or not to receive cancer treatment, which could potentially harm her baby.

After much discussion with her doctors, Rachel was offered the option of   receiving a form of chemotherapy which would not cross her placenta.

“It was such a devastating situation because I never thought I would get cancer, especially when I was pregnant,” she said.

“I decided to focus my energy on my pregnancy rather than my cancer—I would have done anything to make sure my baby was OK.

“From 16 weeks gestation, I would fly to Mater in Brisbane once every three weeks to receive my chemo. The next morning I would have a scan to make sure that everything was still OK with the baby and the treatment wasn’t distressing her at all.” 

Although Rachel’s baby was doing well and hadn’t been affected by the chemo drugs, at 29 weeks gestation Rachel’s tumour had tripled in size.

“My doctors said the baby had to come out immediately so I could receive more intensive treatment for my cancer,” she said.

Hannah Vines was born via Caesarean section on 14 December 2012 at 29 weeks gestation, weighing just 1000 grams.

“It was one of the scariest moments of my life when I had to deliver Hannah early. I was so afraid that something would go wrong because she wasn’t fully developed yet,” she said.

“As soon as she came out she was rushed to Mater’s Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU) before I even got to touch her. It was heart breaking.”

Hannah spent eight weeks in hospital where she was on Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and had two blood transfusions.


“My husband and I were so afraid of taking her home because we wouldn’t have the medical support we received at Mater Mothers’ Hospital,” she said.

Thanks to the life-saving care Hannah received at Mater Mothers’ Hospital, she is now a healthy and happy little girl who loves reading, playing with dolls and spending time with her big brother.

Although Rachel’s cancer has now returned, she and her family remain positive and strong.


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For urgent assessment at any stage of your pregnancy, please present to your nearest emergency centre or Mater Mothers’ 24/7 Pregnancy Assessment Centre in South Brisbane.

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