A monster inside her

TV show will tell of parasite that put former Vancouver woman's unborn baby at risk

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 
photo Kirsten Pevey, now 35, and her daughter, Jaidyn, now 6, will be featured on an episode of the Animal Planet TV show "Monsters Inside Me" on Friday.

On TV

• “A Monster’s Taking My Baby” episode of “Monsters Inside Me,” 8 p.m. Friday, Animal Planet.

At 35 weeks pregnant, Kirsten Pevey learned she had more than just a baby living inside her body.

As baby Jaidyn was growing inside her womb, a parasite was ravaging Pevey's intestines.

About the time Pevey learned about the microscopic parasite, she began experiencing pregnancy complications, putting her unborn baby at risk for Down syndrome and learning disabilities.

"They can't directly link the parasite to the problems I had with Jaidyn," Pevey said. "But in my heart, I know it is."

Medication killed the parasite, but not before the bug severely damaged her intestines. Pevey nearly needed reconstructive surgery to repair her system. Despite the scare, Pevey delivered a healthy baby girl on Oct. 24, 2006.

Pevey's horror movie-worthy story will hit the small screen Friday in an episode of "Monsters Inside Me," a TV show on Animal Planet. The episode, titled "A Monster's Taking My Baby," will feature Pevey; her husband, Derek; and local physicians and nurses.

The show recounts the scary and painful weeks leading up to Jaidyn's birth.

When Pevey was about 33 weeks pregnant, she started experiencing diarrheal illness. She visited her doctor's office, but they assumed she'd caught the flu, sending her home with orders to stay hydrated with fluids. Instead of getting better, her condition worsened.

"The minute I swallowed food, I was in the restroom," she said. "I was passing blood, but they were telling me I still had the flu."

The symptoms eventually lead Pevey, who was about 35 weeks pregnant, to the family birth center at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. Concerned by the symptoms, a nurse collected a stool sample and sent Pevey home.

About that same time, during a routine appointment with her physician, Pevey learned her baby had stopped growing and her body had virtually no amniotic fluid. Her physician, Dr. Allison Duncan at The Vancouver Clinic, started fetal heart monitoring and ordered Pevey on bed rest.

As Pevey was cleaning out her desk at work, she received a call from the health department. The test results taken by the nurse were back. Pevey had a parasite living in her intestine.

The parasite, cryptosporidium, or crypto for short, is relatively rare in the U.S. In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 6,479 cases of cryptosporidiosis. While the parasite can be spread in several ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common, according to the CDC.

Health officials couldn't determine how Pevey contracted the parasite.

"To this day, I still don't know, and at that point, I didn't really care," she said.

Within a week of starting treatment, Pevey was able to eat again without rushing to the toilet. Baby Jaidyn, however, was still in trouble. By the time Pevey was 37 weeks, Jaidyn was breached and still not growing. Duncan delivered the baby by Caesarean section.

Jaidyn was born without any lasting effects of the complications.

"She was this perfect little miracle," Pevey said.

Several years later, Pevey, who now lives in Kalispell, Mont., started watching the "Monsters Inside Me" TV show. She saw an episode about crypto and decided to write the producers about her own experience.

In July 2011, Pevey and her husband flew back to Vancouver to film her episode. Filming took place at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center and Pevey's mother-in-law's home in Felida. Duncan and the Legacy nurses on Pevey's care team helped re-enact the diagnosis and delivery.

Pevey, now 35, and Jaidyn, now 6, will watch the show together Friday with about 25 friends and family members. They're throwing a "parasite party," complete with spaghetti dinner, to celebrate the episode's airing.

"My daughter is petrified," Pevey said. "She thinks we're watching an actual monster movie."