Conflicting accounts, a 20 year gap, and an ulterior motive don?t
make for a great medical historian.
(WHAT WOULD JESUS EXAGGERATE)
Tim Tebow and his mother Pam were the
subjects of a much anticipated Superbowl Ad. In it, his
mother told the story of getting ameobic dysentery
and being treated for it while pregnant.
In the aftermath, she claims, she was told by doctors to have an
abortion due to the drugs? potential to cause birth defects. She also claims that she developed a
?severe? abruption and was told to have an abortion for that as well.
In one version of the story, floating around the internet, she
is reported to have taken substantial amounts of the drug and doctors advised
abortion because of birth defects. In
another, it is claimed she took one pill, was inspired by God to read the
package insert which told her of the potential for birth defects. She soldiered on through ameobic
dysentery without them. Somewhere in all of this is the claim that
dysentery put her in a coma. The details
of the alleged abruption are unclear.
Their Focus on the Family follow up video mentions a large clot at
delivery. When and if the clot was
discovered before birth is not known, at this writing.
She refused abortion, endured untreated disease, risked her
life, and/or carried a deformed baby.
Take your pick. Tim was born
and the rest is (football) history.
But does the story hold water, holy or not?
The drug Mrs. Tebow took was
undoubtedly Flagyl (Metronidazole)
or one of its close cousins. This is a
drug that was available at the time that was widely used for amoebic
dysentery. Blood thinning is one of its
side effects which could explain the development of the abruption.
TERATOGENICITY (CAUSING BIRTH DEFECTS)
Flagyl caused cancer in the
enormous doses given to lab animals, during its development. As a society, we are much more forgiving of
dangerous experimentation on lab animal than pregnant women. So, the norm of that day was to require generic
birth defect warnings on any drugs that caused cancer, in lab animals. The same properties that cause cancer can
also cause birth defects. Still, no such
thing was ever found with Flagyl. In fact, years later, its safety in pregnancy
It is hard to imagine a doctor advising an abortion based on
such little risk. This event took place
a long, long time ago in a place far far away. But, in this country in this time the
pregnancy would be monitored by ultrasound for clear proof of abnormalities. If and when they occurred, the mom would be
presented with abortion as a possibility, but also given information on the
defect and resources for help raising a child with those challenges.
An abruption is when the placenta detaches from the wall of
the uterus. Abruption can lead to
abortion, simply because the pregnancy aborts itself. The blood irritates the uterine lining and
can trigger preterm labor. Placenta can
detach to such a degree that the baby dies and/or both or at risk due to
excessive blood loss.
But, drugs can be
used to calm the uterus and prolong the pregnancy and neonatologists can
stabilize preterm infants, if those fail.
If an underlying blood clotting disorder is involved, drugs can be given
for this as well.
The placenta has twice the capacity it needs to grow the
baby to term. So, even very inadequate,
damaged, partially detached placentas can result in perfectly healthy
babies. Lastly, the mother?s blood
supply increases dramatically during pregnancy.
This decreases the risk of bleeding to death for the mother. Pregnancy is also a state in which the blood
clots more readily than normal.
associated with amniotic fluid embolism ? a very rare, but highly deadly
pregnancy complication. But, 50% of
cases don?t have it. There is no
direct treatment for it. The response is
to support basic cardiovascular function and fight against the shock the
embolism causes. Abruption is also
associated with DIC again a rare but potentially deadly, but treatable blood
clotting disorder. The most common reason for maternal death associated
with abruption is massive blood loss which can be treated with blood.
Although the vast majority of moms survive, they still risk
serious damage due to the blood loss and/or shock these problems cause. They can be left with kidney damage, damage
to their hormonal systems (Sheehan?s syndrome), or others. But again, these are rare.
But most importantly, all these problems can occur in any
pregnancy. The ones with problems
identified early on just have a higher chance.
Pregnancy, even a ?normal? pregnancy is one of the riskiest things most
young women do. And being born is one
of the riskiest things all babies do. That?s why we do this in a hospital.
CONFLICT: IT ONLY HAPPENS IN THE MOVIES
None of the medical scenarios alleged in or around the Tebow ads would have led to a doctor advising
abortion. Unless and until the mother or
baby presents with one of the immediately life-threatening emergencies, listed
in the last paragraphs above, medicine takes a wait-and-see approach.
The risk of carrying a drug deformed child to the mother is
about zero. The risk that Mrs. Tebow?s child was deformed by the drugs she took was also
about zero. The chance that a doctor
advised an abortion for the possibility that a drug that causes cancer in lab
rates when taken in massive doses might mean that her child might have
deformities --- uuhhh that one?s about zero too.
In abruption, if the worst happens, then measures are taken to
quickly end the pregnancy by c-section.
If a mother refused, she and her baby would both be at high risk of
death. There isn?t a way for her to
sacrifice herself for her baby, since, her body is
quite literally The Mothership here. Needless to say, there?s
no babies growing in dead mothers.
The mother?s risk of death or
harm is less than the baby?s when ending the pregnancy during a crisis. But, without ending it, mom and baby?s chances
are both about the same ? very, very bad. But, it is with the help from our friends from
neonatology, that the pregnancy is ended, not abortion.
Complicated pregnancies are sometimes ended early because
the baby has a better chance in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit than in the womb.
Any additional risks to the mother of c-section
Those doctors and nurse who do not make the same effort to
save the baby in an emergency are guilty of the worst malpractice, and violate
the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act which mentions the unborn child
specifically. They should face a host of
actions by state licensing boards and local authorities, as well.
It is not now, nor has it ever been normal to advise women
to have abortions upon discovery of an abruption during the pregnancy, nor
during a crisis.
The most offensive, insensitive parts were not in the ad
itself. In the follow-up material on
Focus on the Family website, the mother proclaims her Timmie
is special (don?t all moms feel that way about their kids), that he was sooo special to God because he was spared death in
So, that means the ones that don?t make are what? Do-overs?! Geez, just when a grieving mom thought that seeing
babies everywhere and dealing with those ?comforting? comments that start with the
words ?at least?.? were the worse things she had to deal with. Now, she has to be told that her lost child
must have been destined to be a serial killer, or maybe just a slacker, like a doctor
or an engineer, but certainly not a vital citizen, like a football player. At least she has an answer to that
heartbreaking question ? why? Because her
child wasn?t special, didn?t have a future, and well, Jesus really tried to
love her, but moved on to someone better.
As many others have reported, its anti-abortion theme was so
subtle that it would be missed without the hype. But, to the scores of women who have lost a
child the message came through loud and clear.