Houston doctor saves baby’s life

At only 7-weeks-old, Abigail Hope Cheng’s life is nothing short of a miracle.

HOUSTON — Mother’s Day seemed impossible to celebrate for Anne Briggs a few months ago. She was in the middle of her first pregnancy and kept being told her unborn child wouldn’t make it.

Now, after flying across the world to get help, the 38-year-old mother’s dream is coming true with her baby girl.

At only 7-weeks-old, Abigail Hope Cheng’s little life is nothing short of a miracle.

To begin, her conception seemed improbable.

“I knew it was going to be a struggle to have children,” Briggs said. 

It had been 12 years since she had a natural period.

“I was taking birth control pills so I was having it induced, but if I stopped … I wouldn’t have a cycle,” she said.

But she and her partner, Mark Cheng, wanted a baby. So they tried IVF in March 2021. It didn’t work, but a few months later, she woke up with morning sickness. She took a pregnancy test but didn’t believe the results.

“Took the second one and it came out positive. And I was, like, ‘Mark, we have a baby,” she said.

The couple was astounded and elated until the excitement came crashing down at the 20-week ultrasound.

“We found out she was diagnosed with pleural effusion, which is fluid inside her chest cavity,” Cheng said.

With fluid in her chest, Abagail’s lungs and heart wouldn’t fully grow and it would likely be fatal for the baby. They were living in Taiwan at the time and the couple went through two failed procedures and had three doctors telling them to end the pregnancy.

“(The doctors) just told us, yeah, the prognosis is pretty bad, you should consider abortion,” Cheng said.

That’s when they met Dr. Ramesh Papanna with UT Health in Houston.

“These are the stories that actually make us keep going,” Papanna said.

The couple was running out of time and options until Papanna told them to fly to Houston for a procedure. There was a small problem: Papanna needed a specialized shunt, which he didn’t have. Thankfully, a colleague in Canada did have it and shipped it overnight. It showed up on the same day the couple did — Christmas.

“The most important thing for us was the baby was alive. I wasn’t sure that would be the case,” Papanna said.

The next morning, the procedure to save Abagail’s life took only three minutes. Everything after that — the rest of the pregnancy, delivery and the baby — were all healthy as can be.

Two months before Mother’s Day, Abagail Hope brought her family more than they ever imagined.

“It truly is beyond my wildest dreams,” Briggs said. “She really taught us to hope for the impossible.”

The family of three has been in Texas since they got here on Christmas. They’re hoping to return to Taiwan with their newest addition in a few months.