GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - In a rare procedure, a woman declared brain dead from aneurysms was kept on a respirator for a month to allow for the development of twin boys who were born prematurely at 25 weeks, a western Michigan hospital said Monday.
Nicholas and Alexander Bolden weighed less than 2 pounds when they were born by cesarean section on April 5 and remain on ventilators at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, spokesman Bruce Rossman said.
"We certainly hope they make it, but at this time they're too young to make a confident prognosis," he said. "Children born this early will be at high risk for chronic conditions. It's too soon to tell."
Christine Bolden, 26, of Muskegon, collapsed from brain aneurysms on March 6. She was considered brain dead, but doctors at Spectrum Health Butterworth, an affiliated hospital, kept her on a respirator until it was time to remove the boys, Rossman said.
Bolden's family asked the hospital "to drop everything we could to save these babies. It wasn't that difficult a call," he said. "It required a lot of evaluations and discussions among our staff. They had to at least get to 24 weeks before we could consider delivery."
Cases of keeping a pregnant, brain dead woman on a respirator are uncommon. In 2010, researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany reported finding just 30 worldwide since 1982.
Rossman said doctors at Spectrum Health would not publicly discuss details of Bolden's case.
Dr. Cosmas Vandeven, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at University of Michigan hospital, said it's a "very exceptional scenario." He said an important ethical issue is whether a brain-dead woman would suffer by being kept on a respirator and undergoing a C-section.
"Almost every parent would give their life for their child," Vandeven said. "But you need to get truly independent opinions: Are we sure we're not causing harm to the mom?"
He said 70 percent of babies born at 25 weeks survive, but the risk for long-term health problem is high.
Bolden's grandmother, Donetta Bolden, is the twins' temporary guardian. She declined to comment Monday.
Other relatives said that it was heartbreaking to see Bolden die, but it was a relief to see her boys survive.
"After all that, they were inside of her, even after all she had to go through," brother Vance Terrell told The Grand Rapids Press. "There's a reason for everything."