Katie Smith’s test results had come back, and they made for horrifying reading. But while her doctor now knew what had caused her belly to grow to such a large size, that definitely wasn’t the end of the battle. Smith needed to get to hospital, quickly, if there was any chance of saving her. And even then, there was no guarantee that the young woman would live to tell the tale.
This was the reality for Smith as she battled a mystery health complaint. And in a poignant YouTube video, the young woman revealed the impact that her life-threatening issue had on her – including the suffering, both physical and mental, that she had experienced for years.
Heartrendingly, Smith had been just an eighth-grader when she became the victim of salacious gossip about her belly. And while those early teen years are difficult to navigate at the best of times, the hurtful comments may have only made life even more of an ordeal for the girl.
Smith just couldn’t understand why her belly had grown to the size it had, either. And it was continuing to get bigger, putting more and more pressure on her back as the weight in her stomach increased. Then there were the rumors to deal with – which likely made a bad situation even worse.
Yes, as Smith’s belly expanded, it only further fueled speculation that the young girl was expecting a baby. In reality, though, there was no proof to these claims. And Smith would attempt to put a stop to the gossip, too, when she took a pregnancy test.
According to Smith herself, she had been pressured to prove that she was not pregnant by her school. But as humiliating and confusing as this experience was for the teenager, going through the process may have just saved her life.
Just days after the end of the second semester, Smith was booked in for a check-up. Writing on YouTube, she later claimed that she had previously been criticized by parents who didn’t “think it was right for a pregnant girl to be in the eighth grade.”
But as Smith knew would be the case, the pregnancy test came back negative. Still, that didn’t explain the unusual symptoms that she’d been experiencing in the months leading up to the end of school. Recounting her ordeal, Smith said on YouTube, “I was 14. I didn’t know what the hell it was. I literally thought that I had an alien in my stomach.”
Smith was similarly monitored for diabetes – just in case. But the schoolgirl’s mom may have saved the day when she insisted that her daughter have an X-ray. After the scan, you see, Smith finally found out what had been causing her disturbing symptoms.
Most obviously of all, the teenager had been getting bigger – putting on 50 pounds in just five months. And that didn’t go unnoticed, either, by Smith or by others. “I thought I was gaining weight, but I didn’t know what to think,” the young woman later wrote.
That wasn’t the only issue Smith was experiencing; she was often left in discomfort, too. “Usually, before I would have this really bad pain where I couldn’t even move at all [as well as] back pains,” Smith explained after uploading the YouTube video documenting her ordeal.
As bad as the pain was, though, nothing could compete with the increasing size of the teen’s belly. And, shockingly, Smith wrote that, over “a period of three months,” her stomach had grown “rapidly.” She added, “I noticed [when] I lied down, something popped out of my stomach, and it crushed basically all my organs and made me pee like crazy.”
So, Smith’s health was deteriorating, while the scurrilous rumors were only making the situation worse. And although the X-ray that her mother ordered finally provided the answers she was looking for, these results only brought further alarming news.
You see, Smith’s incredible weight gain and expanding stomach were all down to a cyst that had by now reached epic proportions. And this could have placed the girl in significant danger. Smith later wrote, “When I got [the] test done, my doctor called my mom and told her the worst news ever.”
The young woman added, worryingly, “[The doctor said that I] was going to die, and I would never make it through high school if [the cyst] was solid.” Further tests were naturally performed on Smith, then, to reveal the nature of the cyst and to confirm its true size.
So, what exactly are cysts? Well, according to Medical News Today, they’re “closed capsule or sac-like structures [that are] typically filled with liquid, semisolid or gaseous material.” Cysts can also form in the tissue of any body part; in Smith’s case, one had appeared on her ovary.
These growths come in different sizes, too – “from microscopic to the size of some team-sport balls,” as Medical News Today explained. Unfortunately, Smith’s cyst was very much in the latter category. And the sheer pressure that it was potentially placing on her internal organs was understandably of real concern to doctors.
Still, there was good news: the cyst was liquid, and so it could be operated on immediately. It wasn’t cancerous, either, which must have been a relief to Smith and her mom. And doctors did eventually explain to the teenager why her stomach had expanded so rapidly.
Smith later wrote on YouTube, “They basically told me [that the cyst] was like a tumor. That’s why it grew fast.” And as it happens, her growth was remarkable just because of how huge – and heavy – it turned out to be. Yet Smith isn’t the only one to have gone through such a nightmare.
In 2018, for instance, the BBC reported on a young woman in Swansea, Wales, who also had a giant cyst in her stomach. And in many ways, her story paralleled Smith’s. The British broadcaster explained, “Despite multiple negative pregnancy tests, doctors insisted Keely Favell must be pregnant as her stomach grew in size.”
Now, Favell knew that she wasn’t pregnant, but that wouldn’t stop people asking her when her baby was due. And as the young woman was in her 20s, she could just play along and avoid the external embarrassment that Smith had encountered. Yet even so, Favell could only really explain her own situation by convincing herself that she was “just fat.”
This wasn’t the case, of course, as Favell later discovered. “I’ll never forget the look of shock on [the consultant’s] face when [he] examined me. He said [that] I had a large ovarian mass and the only option was surgery. He couldn’t say what it was, exactly, or how big,” she recalled to the BBC.
So, Favell was booked in for surgery to remove the cyst. Then, once the growth had been taken out, medics were able to ascertain its true size. And, unbelievably, it came in at more than 57 pounds. To put that into context, the BBC explained that this was equivalent to “the weight of a seven- or eight-year-old child or seven average-sized newborn babies.”
In 2018 Women’s Health also reported that 30-year-old Alabama woman Kayla Rahn had had a 50-pound ovarian cyst removed. And as with Smith and Favell, Rahn had suffered from stomach pain and unexplained weight gain for months preceding the discovery.
But Smith’s case differed from those of both Favell and Rahn. You see, while the older women’s cysts had each measured in at or around 50 pounds, the growth inside Smith was found to be an incredible 100 pounds. To put that into context, this is the average weight of a 13-year-old boy.
Bravely, Smith decided to post a video about her cyst and the medical procedure to remove it on YouTube. Throughout the clip, which features a montage of photographs taken before, during and after the life-threatening operation, the song “Please Remember” by LeAnn Rimes plays. It’s a poignant and moving watch.
At the start of the video, though, Smith warns viewers that some of the images are graphic in nature and unsuitable for children. Then, after that caution, she begins telling her story. “On July 3, 2007, I went to [the] Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts,” the clip explains.
Smith then reveals just how serious a procedure she was facing. “Doctors were flown in from all over the country to perform my seven-hour surgery that a doctor told me I may not live through,” she states. And to give viewers a taste of what life had been like for Smith prior to the operation, photos of her extended belly appear on screen.
Two other pictures flash up that show the sheer size of the cyst itself. And one of the many commenters under Smith’s YouTube video expressed their amazement at the nature of the growth. “Until I saw this video, the largest cyst I’ve ever heard about or seen was about one pound. I didn’t believe one could grow that big until today,” they wrote.
In the comments section, Smith herself would give further insights into her suffering and the eventual operation. And even after the cyst had been removed, there was still the grueling recovery period to get through, as the young woman explained.
It appeared, too, that the process initially took its toll on Smith. “At first when I was starting to wake up, I couldn’t talk. So, [the medical team] kept giving me cherry popsicles – that’s the only ones I wanted – but they kept melting cause I kept falling asleep,” she wrote.
Slowly but surely, though, Smith’s condition began to improve. And, of course, her body had very much changed for the better. She explained on YouTube, “I lifted the sheets and was legit wicked happy… I laughed cause I felt my ribs.” Even so, there were some unwanted side effects to begin with.
Recalling the period after the operation, Smith said, “I had to eat like popsicles and pudding for a couple of days cause my stomach couldn’t handle regular food just yet. I would always try to eat it but ended up throwing up.” But it was likely all worth it to wave goodbye to the cyst that had been plaguing her for so long.
And, of course, getting rid of the growth would put an end to the bullying and vicious rumors that Smith had experienced. “Because of this cyst, I’ve been picked on for years. [And I was] an innocent victim of society… always the fat girl that no one liked,” she wrote.
A sadder element of Smith’s experience, though, has been the effect that the cyst has had on the chance of her having children. Replying to a YouTube commenter who had a similar medical issue, she wrote, “They are most likely not going to have to take out your whole ovary… They took out two-thirds of mine and my fallopian tube, but it all varies on how much it covers your ovary.”
Smith was similarly candid about her ability to conceive. “Sure, it’s going to be hard to get pregnant. For me it’s going to be very hard, but I was planning on adopting. Remember to keep your options open if you can’t get pregnant,” she remarked, revealing a maturity beyond her years.
And towards the end of her YouTube video, the teenager left her audience with a set of poignant messages aimed at helping those in need. As well as a plea to stop bullying, there was also a heartfelt call to be vigilant when it comes to health issues. “Before I got the cyst taken out, when I lay down something the size of a football popped out,” the teen wrote.
Smith went on, “After I took a bit of something I would get very sick, and my school also thought I was pregnant when I was not. If you have anything popping from your stomach and you know you’re not pregnant, please go see your doctor, because you could be the next innocent victim of something you can’t control.”
In the video’s comments section, Smith also advised people to get any health complaints checked out. So, how has she been faring since her cyst was removed? Well, nearly a decade after uploading her clip to YouTube, Smith returned to the video-sharing site to explain what had happened next.
Posting a new message underneath her video, Smith revealed some terrific news. She wrote, “It’s been ten years since my surgery, and I’m going to be doing an update video soon but on my new page. A lot has happened since the surgery… I got married to the love of my life.”
Hopefully, then, Smith has found her happily ever after. And while she didn’t turn out to be pregnant – despite all the rumors – another woman definitely was. This mom was also hoping that she had a girl on the way, as she already had two boys to look after. But when she went for a routine check-up, she received a huge surprise.
The past few weeks at the San Diego hospital had all been in preparation for this moment. And when expectant mom Angie finally delivered a healthy baby girl, there were likely to have been overwhelming feelings of relief and joy in the room. But Angie didn’t have time to rest and spend precious moments with her new daughter. You see, there was more in store, as the medical team attending knew all too well.
Before the birth, Angie and her partner Gino had been the doting parents of two little boys. Then, however, the couple discovered that their brood was about to grow once again. Yes, Angie was pregnant – but little did she and Gino know that nature had a surprise in store for them.
In the first few weeks, the pregnancy progressed just as doctors might have expected – but that all changed when Angie attended a routine check-up. At that appointment, her doctor Sean Daneshmand told the mom-to-be that she needed some specialist care. In order for her to be monitored, then, she would need to be admitted to hospital.
Angie’s journey was covered in a video by Sharp HealthCare that was posted to YouTube in 2012. And in the footage, Daneshmand explains why the mother of two had needed further attention, saying, “Unfortunately, at 26 and a half weeks [into the pregnancy], all of a sudden there was a fluid discrepancy… So, that was time to say, ‘Angie, we belong in the hospital now.’”
Furthermore, Angie’s pregnancy was considered high-risk. Why? Well, she wasn’t expecting just one baby but three. Yes, she was due to give birth to triplets, and with that prospect there were added risk factors that threatened to jeopardize the safety of her unborn infants.
For instance, multiple pregnancies bring with them a greater chance of premature delivery. According to March of Dimes – a charity that advocates for the wellbeing of mothers and babies alike – in excess of 90 percent of triplets are born before 37 weeks. The average triplet pregnancy, meanwhile, lasts for just 33 weeks.
And, unfortunately, a baby born before term runs a higher risk of experiencing issues with their health. There’s a likelihood that their vital organs may not be completely developed, for example, or that they may not have the capacity to swallow or suck. A premature child’s immune system may not yet be able to sufficiently respond to infections, either.
But before Angie and Gino could consider the potential risks that their triplet pregnancy posed, they first had to come to terms with the fact that they were expecting three babies. In the Sharp HealthCare video, Angie admits, “I would wake up in the middle of the night and just kind of shake [Gino] and say, ‘Baby three?’ I mean, really? Three?’”
The notion that Angie was expecting triplets also seemed difficult for Gino to get his head around. Trying to explain his partner’s pregnancy in the video, he says, “The one that’s by itself is… is it Camilla? Or Daniella?” After a tip-off from Angie, he confirms, “Daniella’s by herself… but I have no clue where she is.”
Yet Gino shows that he does have some idea where the triplets sit in Angie’s womb. Pointing to each one on camera, he explains, “Daniella’s here… Anabella’s here, and Camilla’s here.” Angie confirms that Gino’s estimations are correct, after which he adds, “I kind of guessed, but I got it.”
However, because two of Angie and Gino’s babies were sharing a placenta, there was a chance that one of them wouldn’t grow as big as the others. And when doctors spotted a fluid discrepancy, they decided that it was therefore time to act. In Sharp Healthcare’s footage, Angie explains of the findings, “[The medical team] saw that the liquid for Baby B was too low and for C was a little high.”
As a result, Angie’s doctor had told the expectant mom that it was time for her to be admitted to the hospital. And the news seemingly came as quite a surprise. Revealing what her reaction had been at the time, Angie explains, “I said, ‘Wait! Right now, right now? And [Daneshmand] said, ‘Yeah – right now, right now.”
So, 27 weeks into her pregnancy, Angie was admitted to the Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns. The healthcare facility claims to deliver a greater number of children than any other in the state, at almost 8,000 infants every year. Naturally, then, staff there are exceptionally skilled at dealing with both pregnant women and their babies.
The Sharp Mary Birch Hospital is well-equipped to deal with high-risk pregnancies such as Angie’s, too, with its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) deemed to be a world leader. Angie herself would be taken care of by an expert team of doctors, nurses and specialists during her stay at the facility.
And owing to unexpected complications in her pregnancy, Angie would remain in the hospital for several weeks until the birth of her triplets. This meant, of course, that she had to be away from her beloved husband and boys, but all she could do for now was focus on her unborn babies. “Anything could happen between now and my due date,” she explains in the video.
Paying tribute to the sacrifice the mom had made, Daneshmund adds on camera, “Angie spends weeks [at the hospital]. This is not easy. She’s got two kids at home. She’s got a husband at home. She’s got a life at home. But she does everything to make sure that these three babies do well. That’s powerful.”
But being away from home wasn’t the only hardship that Angie had to contend with while she waited for her babies to arrive. During her time in the hospital, she tells Sharp HealthCare, “We hear a lot of stories… You know, of triplets that don’t make it. Especially the identical twins. The body absorbs one of them.”
And while giving an update in the video, Angie adds, “I was admitted when I was 27 weeks [pregnant], and tomorrow I’ll be 30 weeks.” Still, both she and Gino had seemingly gotten used to the situation. Speaking to Sharp HealthCare, the dad-to-be explains, “The other day, one of the nurses called Angie, and I heard it through the speaker [and said], ‘Are you home?’ It sounded funny, but it is home.”
Toni Hicks from the Sharp Memorial Hospital’s Perinatal Special Care Unit has also revealed that empathy is key when dealing with women such as Angie. “They’re taken away from everything that’s normal,” she explains in the YouTube clip. “So by telling them, you know, ‘I understand this is really hard for you,’ that’s huge for our patients.”
And while the experience had presumably been tough at times for Angie, it seems that her time in the hospital did bring about some unexpected bonuses. In one moment from the Sharp HealthCare video, she’s seen lying in bed with Gino sitting by her side. Laughing, Angie then explains, “It’s our date night that we never get at home.”
Meanwhile, to ensure that Angie was as prepared as possible for what would come after the births, the medical team gave the mom a tour of the NICU at the hospital. In the video, social work supervisor Karen Anderson explains to Angie, “Our goal is for you to see a little bit what the NICU looks like, ’cause it’s pretty likely that the triplets are going to end up there.”
Triplets often have to be taken to the NICU as they tend not to be carried to full term. Hicks explains further to Sharp Healthcare, saying, “The risk of having a premature baby is that their lungs are not completely developed [and] they could have brain bleeds.” As a result, it was of the utmost importance that Angie and Gino’s infants were looked after well.
So, while seeing incubated babies in the NICU may have been an eye-opening experience for Angie and Gino, it may also have reassured them that their triplets would be in the best possible place to get whatever assistance they would need. In the footage, Angie says of the unit, “I didn’t see it as a sad place; I saw it as a way of empowering me.”
Before the time came for Angie to hand over her babies to the NICU, however, her doctors wanted her to get as far through her pregnancy as possible. That being said, they were still expecting an early birth. Daneshmand reveals in the Sharp HealthCare clip, “Right now, our goal is, alright, 32 weeks, 34 weeks. After 34 weeks, it’s icing on the cake.”
For Angie, her time in the hospital was therefore a bit of a waiting game. Luckily, though, she had people around her who understood her situation. It appeared, for instance, that the perinatal special care team’s Denise Frank had empathy for the mom. “I have four children of my own, and I try to put myself in that bed and remember, you know, what was most important to me,” she says in the Sharp HealthCare video.
Nonetheless, the doctors were concerned that one of Angie’s babies – Baby B – would be significantly smaller than the other two. In the footage, Daneshmand explains, “Two of the babies are sharing one placenta. So, when that happens, there’s a higher chance of one of the babies not growing very well.”
But only time would tell how Angie’s triplets would fare, and until they were born, all doctors could do was take things as they came and hope for the best. And Angie was all too aware of the risks she faced. Talking on camera, she reveals, “We could have contractions that we can’t control. We may do an emergency C-section. For us – we don’t count the weeks here, we count the days.”
Angie continued to rack up the days until she was just over 32 weeks into her pregnancy. Then her labor got underway. In the Sharp HealthCare video, she reveals, “I’m four centimeters dilated already, so it’s time.” Proud dad Gino adds, “Three little stars will be born tonight.”
Then, when it became clear that the triplets were soon to arrive, Angie’s medical team made all the necessary arrangements to give them the best possible start. Daneshmund reveals, “Angie’s babies are going to be born via Cesarean section because of safety concerns.” That way, the doctors would be able to keep the delivery under control.
Angie is understandably excited to meet her girls, saying on camera, “As soon as they’re born, I almost feel like it’s a dream, so I just want to touch them or give them a kiss and make sure they’re okay.” But, unfortunately, the expectant mom wouldn’t get to have those first intimate moments with her new arrivals – not right away, at least.
Speaking ahead of the triplets’ births, Daneshmund explains, “Each of the babies is going to have their own advanced life support team. As soon as Angie’s babies are delivered, they’re passed through a window. There’s a room adjacent to the operating room where the babies are assessed, helped with breathing, stabilized and then transferred to the NICU.”
The birth of Angie and Gino’s triplets is captured in the Sharp HealthCare video, and in the footage, you can see the tiny babies being handed over to their specialist care teams as their mother lies helpless on the operating table. At one emotional moment, Angie also sheds a tear as she says of the infants, “I didn’t get to see them.”
Yet even despite her anguish, Angie knows that her babies are in the best possible hands. And after the triplets arrive, their doctors assess them, help with their breathing and stabilize them. Then, after the newborns have received some assistance in opening up their lungs, they are transported to the NICU.
All the while, Angie and Gino are forced to take a backseat as the team care for their three new daughters, Daniella, Anabella and Camilla. Speaking of the parents’ difficult situation, nurse Alina Harper says in the video, “I really empathize with the parents that have to have their babies and be separated from them.”
However, that brief separation from their parents is in the triplets’ best interests. Daneshmand explains, “We still have to remember that these babies are still small, and they still are predisposed to other complications and, again, long-term morbidities. But, so far, we’re excited that everything has turned out very well.”
The video cameras are still rolling, too, as Gino wheels Angie up to the neonatal unit. There, they can meet their babies properly for the very first time. And as she holds one tot close to her chest, the mom simply utters, “It feels so right.” She also wipes a tear from her cheek as she and Gino share in the special moment.
Then, with one of her babies still held to her chest, Angie explains what has been going through her mind since the birth. “[I had] only a few hours apart from [the triplets], but I really missed them,” she says. “So, it feels good to be reunited.”
And for staff in the NICU, moments such as these may make their job worthwhile – particularly when they too can get to share in a family’s joy. In the footage, Harper says, “I love to see the initial contact between mommy and baby. I always look for that moment that’s just theirs, that I get to be a part of.”
Gino too is happy to meet his triplets properly for the first time. And as he holds his daughter Anabella close, seeing her open her eyes appears to delight him. She looks straight up at her father, creating an instant bond, and when Gino describes his emotions at that moment, he says that it is “beautiful… [a] beautiful feeling.”
So, thanks to the team at Sharp Memorial Hospital, the triplets have had the best possible start in life. And while Angie’s pregnancy may have been far from straightforward, it seems that it was worth it, as it has produced three cherished daughters. The babies’ doting mother admits, “It’s truly a dream come true to have them come into my life.”