New Mom With Cancer Fights for Life After Birthing Preemie Twins

  Sgt. Hinman with his daughters. Photo: Facebook

Sgt. Hinman with his daughters. Photo: Facebook

Instead of bonding with her newborn preemie twins, upstate New York mom Jenna Hinman is in a medically induced coma and fighting for her life following the diagnosis of an extremely rare cancer, as her husband Brandon, a U.S. Army infantry sergeant, keeps vigils at both her bedside and their babies' incubator.
“The whole situation is a tightrope,” Jenna’s doctor, gynecologic oncologist Wiley Bunn of Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, tells Yahoo Shine. “We have to treat her or we’ll lose her — and if we treat her, we may lose her.” Meanwhile, infant girls Kinleigh and Azlynn, just 3 pounds each at birth, are stable. 

Efforts to support the family have been growing, with several fundraisers in the works and a GoFundMe page that so far has brought in more than $60,000. “My hope is that every single person that’s reached out truly understands how thankful [we] are,” Brandon, a sergeant based at Fort Drum, New York, who has served time in Afghanistan, tells Yahoo’s Buzz60. “It’s supposed to be the greatest time in our life, and it turns into the biggest nightmare.”

It’s one that began on March 3, when Jenna, only 30 weeks pregnant, went into premature labor. She was rushed to the emergency room, delivering her twin girls via emergency C-section and just catching a glimpse of them before they were whisked into the neonatal intensive care unit. The new mom then began having breathing difficulties and coughing up blood, and was put on a ventilator. Within days, a doctor determined that Jenna, 26, was riddled with tumors and lesions caused by choriocarcinoma, a cancer that starts in the placenta. 

  The couple at their wedding. Photo: Facebook

The couple at their wedding. Photo: Facebook

“It’s very rare, so no one would think of it,” Bunn explains. “An ob/gyn doctor who has a patient come in with breathing difficulties wouldn’t think of this right off the bat.” He notes that this particular form of the disease occurs in only about one in 160,000 pregnancies, and that out of those, most women don’t come in with such an aggressive case. 

Now Jenna, put into a medically induced coma as a way to help her conserve oxygen, is receiving doses of chemotherapy along with support from an ECMO machine, which pumps blood out of a person’s body and oxygenates it before pumping it back in. “We haven’t ever had an adult on ECMO at our hospital, only babies,” Bunn notes, adding that the staff neonatologists came together to help, while other specialists from nearby hospitals have also pitched in with care and expertise. “This has been such a team effort.” 

Last week the hospital’s chief of medicine, Dr. David Landsberg, woke Jenna up for a brief moment so that her husband could speak with her. “I walked up to her bed and grabbed her hand and said, ‘Honey it’s me. I love you, you're doing great.’ And as I was talking she shook her head yes,” Brandon tells WSTM. “That could be the last time I talk to my wife.”

One of several Facebook pages created for the cause, Prayers for Jenna, has been posting updates about the situation, noting on Monday, “What we can tell you is that Jenna is still fighting hard and her determination to survive this cancer is evident to all who care for her. The treatment team is continuously humbled by Jenna’s strength and will to live.” Another page, Fundraiser for Jenna Hinman, is donating jewelry sale profits to the cause.

Tiny Kinleigh and Azlynn continue to thrive in the NICU, where they are breathing on their own. “It’s actually a load off my shoulders, because I know they’re exactly where they need to be, so I can focus my attention on my wife,” Brandon tells Buzz60. Bunn adds that while Jenna still has “a long way to go,” her daughters, at least, are certain to go home with dad. “In general, we do pretty well with a 30-week-old baby here,” he says. “So they’re keepers.” 

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