A courageous Queensland couple who faced medical challenges and physical disabilities have defied the odds to become parents to their ‘miracle’ baby girl Layla.
Fortitude Valley couple Andrew Vikstrom and wife Adrianna Contoleon have been hailed as a ‘beacon of hope’ to other couples with disabilities by the doctors at
in South Brisbane who supported them throughout their pregnancy journey.
Mr Vikstrom, 44, became a quadriplegic after fracturing his vertebrae in a diving accident when he was just 16.
He met his 36-year-old wife, who is confined to a wheelchair with T12 Paraplegia, during a Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association ski trip in Perisher 14 years ago.
Ms Contoleon was born with a severe form of spina bifida and hydrocephalus (build-up of fluid in the ventricles deep within the brain), which requires a shunt in her brain to drain the excess fluid away.
Celebrating his first Father’s Day (3 September), Mr Vikstrom said he felt “very lucky” to finally be a dad.
“Adrianna and I spent six months trialing ways to see how life would work with a baby in the mix,” Mr Vikstrom said.
“We talked about what we needed with our occupational therapist, we looked at what other couples in wheelchairs had done, and we knew the biggest thing we could do was to love this little girl to bits and therefore find a way to care for her – to adapt what we have and what we need.”
Determined to have a baby after she “found the right person”, Ms Contoleon described Layla as the “best gift”.
“I have always wanted children. I look at Layla and would do it all over again! She’s just perfect and definitely a daddy’s girl,” she said.
“We had an amazing medical team and couldn’t have done it without them.”
Ms Contoleon said her husband was the “most amazing dad”.
“Andrew has stepped up in ways I could not have imagined. He was meant to be Layla’s dad,” she smiled.
The pregnancy was closely monitored by Dr Harris and a Mater medical team including enndocrinologist Dr Erin Fanning and neurosurgeons Dr Jason Papacostas and Dr Robert Campbell.
At 34 weeks into Ms Contoleon’s pregnancy, her shunt blocked, which led to debilitating neurological symptoms, including confusion and memory loss.
“Adrianna ultimately required a shunt revision while pregnant,” Dr Harris said.
“The obstetric team were on standby if she was required to deliver. Thankfully, Adrianna recovered very well, and her pregnancy continued for a further 10 days until the shunt blocked again when she was 36 weeks pregnant.”
Soon after giving birth to Layla, Ms Contoleon underwent further neurosurgery with Dr Papacostas to fix the shunt.
It was 36 hours later that the new mum was able to hold her precious baby.
“While there are only a few cases world-wide of women with ventriculoperitoneal shunts or spina bifida having children, very few women born with the severity of Adrianna’s spina bifida go on to have children,” Dr Harris said.
“Their story serves as a beacon of hope for couples with disabilities who aspire to have children.
“These two are an amazing couple! They have had to make many extra preparations for having a baby, including even adjusting how they lift a baby up and out of a cot from a wheelchair themselves.”
Dr Harris said: “The couple’s journey to parenthood will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the lives of many, encouraging others to embrace their dreams and overcome obstacles in their own lives”.
“They are the two most resilient human beings I have had the privilege of being involved with. Adrianna’s determination is something to behold,” she said.
Mr Vikstrom, who has been married to his wife for nine years, said he felt extremely emotional during Layla’s birth.
“Adrianna was given a general anesthetic and is unable to remember anything about the birth and surgery which followed moments after,” he said.
“I promised my wife that Layla wouldn’t be alone when she was born. I made sure I was with Layla in the Special Care Nursery as much as I could be – to touch her, hold her and try to make her feel safe.
“I told her mummy couldn’t be with her just yet and I spent time bonding with her.
“Our journey has been full of emotions.
“Adrianna and I made the choice together to have and raise a child. We wanted to give our baby the best we can.”
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