Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine: contact Dotty McNeely at (718) 670-1534.
When Nalinie Isaac walked into the office of Dr. Daniel Skupski one summer morning in 2004, she was filled with a mix of emotions: frustration, fear – and hope.
It had been a long and disappointing journey to this point. Fifteen years of trying to become pregnant. Four different obstetricians. Seven miscarriages –and no babies. “But I am a very determined person,” she says. “I had never been to a maternal-fetal specialist before, only regular OBs. I thought, ‘Maybe this time.’” She was right. Today she has two beautiful sons, Michael, 5, and Nathan, 2. Ms. Isaac wants other women to know that they can do it too, but they have to fight for what they want – and find the doctor who can help. For her, that person is Dr. Skupski.
Ms. Isaac’s issue was a weak cervix. It couldn’t hold the fetus after it had grown to a certain point, somewhere between 14 and 20 weeks. On her sixth pregnancy, her OB tried a cerclage, a procedure to stitch and tighten the cervix, but it failed. On her seventh pregnancy, another OB tried it and “my cervix gave up again,” she says. Then someone recommended Dr. Skupski, and she made an appointment to talk with him.
“He came over, shook my hand and patted my shoulder,” she recalls. “‘What you need,’ he said, ‘is an upper cerclage. The lower one doesn’t work for you.’” And right away, I could feel my confidence building.”
Ms. Isaac’s seventh pregnancy had been complicated by what appeared to be a congenital heart defect in the fetus, but was not identified specifically. She had seen a pediatric cardiologist and then been referred to another, but lost the fetus before going further.
Autopsy revealed that the fetus had suffered a heart attack that had produced the anomaly – a very rare event, with only a few cases reported in the literature. Dr. Skupski laid out a plan to manage a future pregnancy. He also performed a series of tests looking for conditions that would indicate specific risk, and found nothing.
When Ms. Isaac became pregnant again that fall, she continued to see her regular OB for basic checkups. She also saw Dr. Skupski, who monitored her pregnancy.
At 14 weeks, he performed the upper cerclage. “He was so good and gentle, and so professional,” Ms. Isaac says. “He waited until I recovered to be sure I was all right. And he told me I could call him at any time. He answered any questions I had and he was always there for me.”
The status of the cerclage was checked every month with ultrasound. She had an uneventful pregnancy until the 36th week, when her water broke and the baby she had fought so long to have for was delivered. She was given a C-section because a previous operation to remove uterine fibroids had weakened her uterus, which made labor dangerous. The cerclage was removed at the time of delivery.
“Dr. Skupski drove from his home at 1:00 in the morning to be there,” Ms. Isaac recounts. “I gave him my baby and I said, ‘Look what you did!’ He smiled and said, ‘The Lord and I worked together.’”
Ms. Isaac had another successful pregnancy in 2007, and delivered another son in February 2008. “Dr. Skupski did a great job,” Ms. Isaac says, “and I’m proof. Look! I have my sons!” She takes her children to visit her favorite doctor every year and to remind him how grateful she and her husband are. She has never known anyone like him, she says. “I tell him, ‘You are someone I will never forget.’”