Dallas OB-GYN emotional about delivering first uterus transplant baby in the United States
Despite what he told himself, it was impossible for Robert Gunby, MD, to remain dispassionate as he helped make medical history once again.
In late 2017, the Dallas obstetrician-gynecologist delivered the first baby in the United States born from a transplanted uterus. The delivery at what was then Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas was a crowning achievement for the hospital’s uterine transplant clinical trial program, and Dr. Gunby couldn’t avoid absorbing the new parents’ excitement and joy.
“I was determined that originally I was not going to get emotionally involved with this because I was so afraid something might happen,” Dr. Gunby told Texas Medicine. “But you can’t help it. I mean, their enthusiasm is so infectious. You just get sucked right in. And it was just so exciting to participate in this program.”
The birth made national news, but Dr. Gunby, who served as Texas Medical Association president during 2005–06 and received TMA’s Distinguished Service Award at TexMed 2017, is no stranger to delivery-room feats.
During the 1980s, he delivered the first child to a liver transplant patient in the Southwest. News of the uterine transplant delivery recently brought him full circle to that achievement; after seeing Dr. Gunby’s name in the newspaper, that liver transplant patient and her now 31-year-old daughter visited him in his office.
And in October 2016, Dr. Gunby delivered Watson Breeden, a girl born at only 25 weeks because her mother had severe preeclampsia. Watson weighed just 11 ounces, the smallest child ever born at Baylor Dallas who survived, and her story made local and national news coverage. She went home after six months in the hospital.
The Baylor Dallas uterine transplant program has performed eight of the 10 transplants for which the trial has funding.
The transplant program team, including Dr. Gunby, made multiple research trips to Sweden’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital, where there have now been eight births to uterus transplant recipients since 2014.
Before Baylor Dallas’ successful birth in November, three of the trial’s transplants had failed because of vascular problems.
But the recipient who became a mother took to the new uterus well and got pregnant quickly, Dr. Gunby said.
“It’s just very unique to these patients who since age 14 or so, they’ve been told that they don’t have a uterus, they can’t have periods, they can never have a baby,” Dr. Gunby said. “It’s a pretty depressing thing to deal with to know that you’re not normal to the point that you can have your own baby.”
At 74, Dr. Gunby hasn’t followed the traditional OB-Gyn route of aging his practice with his patients.
He’s been delivering babies since 1971 and doesn’t see a reason to stop — even after double knee replacements in 2016.
The uterine transplant delivery was a particularly momentous experience, he says, given his age and how long he’s been practicing.
“Here at the tail end of my career, I get to do all this new, exciting stuff and be involved with this,” he said. “It’s just really an honor to get to participate.”
Tex Med. 2018;114(3):48
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