Waiting for Ava: Basingers prepare for birth of miracle baby
By Susan Shinn
When Ava’s image comes up on the screen, her parents gasp in delight.
“There she is!” Joe Basinger says, holding his wife’s hand.
“Look at that!” Amanda Basinger says, her eyes also transfixed on the monitor. “She looks like Noah.”
The Basingers are getting a detailed look at their third child, a daughter, who bears a striking resemblance to their sons, Christian, 8, and Noah, 6.
In the world of babies, three-dimensional ultrasound is a miracle ó a window into seeing a brand-new person you’ll soon be meeting in real life.
It’s appropriate, because to Amanda, 30, and Joe, 32, this child is a miracle, the daughter they thought they’d never have.
Amanda got sick on a family trip to Tweetsie Railroad in July 2006.
She thought she had a kidney stones, but a visit to the emergency room could find nothing wrong. Still, Amanda was in excruciating pain.
For the next several weeks, Amanda endured the pain and a variety of tests.
Finally, they were referred to a nephrologist, Dr. Ernest Johnson, at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast.
“We had such high hopes” for a diagnosis, Joe says. “We just knew he’d have an answer.”
But the physician had no clue. Undaunted, he researched Amanda’s case all night. He called her the next morning with a diagnosis: Loin Pain-Hematuria Syndrome.
In this disease, one kidney is affected by high blood pressure from the veins that feed it, causing swelling and horrific pain. It can recur in the second kidney.
Only several hundred cases have ever been recorded.
“Since this is such a rare disease,” Amanda says, “there were no advocacy groups, no research dollars and not a lot of information anywhere.”
Amanda called Joe.
“I just boo-hooed,” Joe says.
Just before her diagnosis, Amanda and Joe had considered trying for another baby.
“The diagnosis brought those plans to a screeching halt,” Amanda says.
The year 2007 was a tough one for the family. Amanda spent 85 days in the hospital.
Joe kept things together at home.
“I married Superman,” Amanda says.
Most days, Joe would take the kids to school, check on Amanda on the way to work, then go home and pick up the boys, take them to see their mom and get them back home for baths and bed.
And get up and do it all again the next day.
And the day after that.
“I just dealt with it,” Joe says. “I got tired. I got really tired.”
But instead of tearing the couple apart, Amanda’s illness brought them closer together.
Amanda, an information technology project manager with Wachovia, was allowed to work 100 percent from home. Joe, a data security administrator for Wachovia, also worked at home, returning recently to his Charlotte office.
Amanda’s nephrologist referred her to a surgeon in Ohio who was doing a procedure that didn’t cure the disease but did eliminate the pain by cutting the nerves to the kidney.
Amanda was a bit disconcerted to discover that she’d be only the seventh patient to undergo this surgery.
“I’m all for being a trendsetter, but being number 7 is scary,” she says.
But she wanted to get rid of the pain. She was even on methadone for awhile, but couldn’t tolerate it.
“I lived in the bathroom,” Amanda says of the constant nausea. “It was like being on chemo.”
One of her boys even asked, “Mommy, why do we keep a blanket and pillow in the bathroom?”
The only time Amanda got much relief was when she received intravenous medication during hospitalizations.
It was, she says, like having a kidney stone 24/7.
Surgery was set for Oct. 17, 2007. Amanda and Joe were gone for 10 days, traveling to Ohio in their church van so that Amanda could be more comfortable.
Amanda’s parents, Alvin and Sandra Park, kept the boys.
During the first call they made home, Amanda and Joe had to talk Noah out from underneath the dining room table. Things got smoother after that.
“Kids are resilient,” Amanda says. “They adjusted.”
But every time she and Joe go somewhere, the boys still ask, “Are you going to Ohio?”
The surgery took only a few hours, but to Joe seemed to last forever. Because Amanda had been on so much pain medication before the surgery, it was hard to get her post-surgical pain under control.
The drive home was grueling because Amanda’s pain medication wore off after a couple of hours.
But, her husband says, “She was a trouper. She made it. I’ve never been so glad to get home in my life.”
Amanda began to wean herself from the pain medication in January.
That’s when she brought up her desire to have another child.
She and Joe talked to her doctors, who didn’t see any problems with trying. But they warned Amanda that with everything she’d been through, she probably wouldn’t get pregnant.
“We just kept praying and kept our hopes up,” Joe says.
And they tried.
On a trip to the beach in March, Amanda felt nauseated.
She just had that feeling…
“I bet we bought 10 pregnancy tests,” Joe says. “She just kept taking the tests and one came back positive. We just cried. It was so great.”
Amanda first visited her obstetrician when she was six weeks pregnant.
They heard the heartbeat, but the rate was in the 60s ó meaning the pregnancy probably wasn’t viable. They were told to come back in two weeks.
“I prayed every night,” Joe says. “We knew it was out of our hands.”
Two weeks later, they returned.
The couple heard a heartbeat ó strong and fast.
“We just cried as soon as we heard that heart rate,” Joe says. “We knew. There’s an old wives’ tale that a higher heart rate means it’s a girl. We definitely wanted a girl.”
Alvin Park wanted to do something special for his granddaughter-to-be.
So he collected antique oak wood, 80 to 100 years old, and began a “secret project” in his basement.
He built Ava a cedar-lined hope chest, from scratch.
“It’ll be something she can keep long after I’m gone,” Alvin says. “Amanda’s granddaddy made her one.”
Alvin even used his daddy’s pattern for the chest’s skirt or bottom trim.
No doubt Christian and Noah will soon be wanting “toy chests” of their own.
Their granddaddy will be happy to oblige.
Ava’s due date is Dec. 4, although Amanda and Joe doubt it’ll be that long.
Christian was three weeks early; Noah, six weeks.
Joe left Saturday for a mission trip this week to Guatemala.
“I’m a little nervous,” he admits.
“I’m a little freaked out,” she says. “But he really wanted to go. I wanted him to do something for him. I know he’ll be worried the whole time.”
Amanda and Joe have selected the name Ava Grace for their baby.
They really loved the name Ava. The name Grace, Amanda says, “has tons of meaning, especially now.”
Amanda has had multiple ultrasounds, including a level 2 ultrasound in which “they measured every possible part of her body.”
Most importantly for Amanda, Ava’s kidneys are perfect.
As the ultrasound continues, Amanda and Joe remain entranced at their daughter’s image on the screen.
They see her smile, and then she opens her mouth. She grabs her toes, then her knees.
“She’s gonna be playful,” Joe says.
The technician takes a still photo of Ava’s hand, raised as if in a wave to say, “I’ll see you soon.”
“That was awesome,” Amanda says afterward. “She became very real.
“That was a baby there on that screen.”