Local 10's Jacey Birch shares personal journey with son to raise awareness

By Kathleen Corso - Special Projects Producer, Kristi Krueger - Anchor/Health Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - When Local 10 News anchor Jacey Birch took her first job in television news nearly two decades ago, she was singularly focused on her career. 

"I never thought I was maternal or would have children," she said.

Those plans changed in late 2015 when she learned she was pregnant.

"There comes a time when you think, 'Oh my gosh, I don't know if my life would be fulfilled without a child, so I definitely took that plunge," she said. 

Birch's pregnancy was uneventful until September 2016. One week before her due date, she was involved in a serious car accident.

"All I care about is that the baby is OK," she said.

Her unborn baby was alive and well, but an ultrasound technician saw something of concern.

"She said, 'I think we're going to have to do a renal ultrasound when you give birth.'  I was like, 'What does that mean? What are you talking about?'" Birch said.

Shortly after giving birth to her son, Jupiter, doctors told her he had only one functioning kidney.

"I was just a mess. I was crying my eyes out," she said.

As many as one in 1,000 babies are born with only one functioning kidney, but a lot of these children become adults without knowing about their condition. 

"I'm still in shock," said Andrew Linares, 35, who only recently learned he had just one working kidney.

"It makes me a little nervous, especially as I get older," he said.

Linares was put on high blood pressure medication as a precaution because high blood pressure can cause kidney damage. So can some common medications, like Ibuprofen.

"I warn parents to tell doctors their kids have one kidney before giving medication so we're a little more careful with nephrotoxic drugs," said Dr. Felix Ramirez, a pediatric nephrologist with Nicklaus Children's Hospital.

Ramirez said advancements in ultrasound imaging make Jupiter's case unusual.

"You can begin seeing kidney tissue prenatally at around 10 to 12 weeks of gestation. By 20 to 25 weeks, you can identify clearly not only if the kidney is there, but you can see if the kidney is normal because you see more details," he said.

No one knows why earlier ultrasounds didn't reveal Jupiter's condition, which Birch said makes the car accident a blessing in disguise.

"At least I know what I'm dealing with. I'd rather know than not know," she said.

While children born with one functioning kidney can live normal, healthy lives, their parents need to be careful about diet and some kinds of activity. Obesity can compromise kidney function and high impact sports could increase the risk of injury.
 

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