The risk of miscarriage was extremely high, but doctors at RBWH made the decision to operate on Sarah when she was 12 weeks pregnant in order to prevent heart arrhythmia or cardiac arrest caused by a surge of adrenaline as pressure on the tumour increased.
Endocrine surgeon, Dr Clement Wong, performed the surgery using a technique that gives access to the adrenal gland – which is about the size of a thumb – by entering a patient’s back rather than through traditional keyhole surgery into the side.
Sarah was nervous when she entered an RBWH operating theatre 11 days before Christmas last year. It was her 36th birthday and the only gift was on her mind that day was her unborn baby.
“It was a big secret,” said Sarah. “We went into the surgery not knowing if I would come out with a baby or not. It was 50/50. I would either wake up still pregnant or I wouldn’t. I was very scared but I knew I was in good hands.”
Olive Harriet Stangle arrived safely six months later on 1 July, much to the relief of doctors and her doting parents Sarah and Jarrod.
One of her first visitors was anaesthetist Dr Carina Koorts, who was involved in the surgery to remove Sarah’s tumour.
“It truly is amazing to be part of it, and quite emotional to see the result,” Dr Koorts says. “I felt immense responsibility. In these cases, the mother is always our first priority, but we can never ignore the presence of the baby.
“Being a mum myself, I could only imagine how torn Sarah must have been. Having the surgery could mean the possible loss of the baby, but not having the surgery could harm both of them.”
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