Doctors told 38-year-old Jennifer Chase that she’d have to deliver her baby boy before it was too late.
Chase, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, was five months pregnant when she first began experiencing neck pains and blurred vision in July 2017. Although she thought nothing of the ailments, the first-time mom headed to a doctor to make certain that nothing would negatively impact her baby.
“They ordered the MRI and we were waiting for the test results, but I absolutely did not expect anything abnormal from the MRI,” she tells PEOPLE.
But Chase was shocked to learn she had arteriovenous malformation (or AVM). A brain AVM occurs when artery-connecting, abnormal blood vessels and veins in the skull become tangled, causing high pressure and a disruption of blood flow, according to the Cleveland Clinic. For Chase, pregnancy only further complicated the rare disorder.
“I was just in shock. There was a risk of the AVM rupturing. It was getting larger and larger, especially with me being pregnant because there is increased blood flow,” she tells PEOPLE. “So, every day that I’m pregnant, there’s even more of a risk of the AVM rupturing. I could die and the baby could die.”
With that, Chase was aware that any moment that passed could be her last.
Doctors at Cleveland Clinic told Chase and her husband Chris that she’d need to deliver her baby via c-section as soon as possible so that she could undergo a brain embolization surgery to disrupt the life-threatening cluster in her brain.
“I was concerned for my baby. This is certainly not the way I planned to have my baby,” she says. “You want him to be as healthy as you can possibly be. My husband was very supportive. He said, ‘We’re gonna do what we need to do.’ ”
On Aug. 24, 2017 — just weeks after the diagnosis — Chase was put under anesthesia while delivering Wesley. During the birth, doctors drilled a hole into her skull to insert a device that would monitor Chase’s brain pressure during the high-risk birth. Just minutes later, Chase successfully delivered her little boy — at just 29 weeks and six days.
“I was very thrilled,” she says of the birth. “It was wonderful. I was so happy.”
The premature baby was whisked away into the neonatal intensive care unit and, the day after the birth, Chase underwent the surgery. She was finally able to see her new son three days later.
“There were some hard days, where you missed your baby and felt guilty for not being there,” she says of the time.
Now, Wesley is nearly 9 months old and doctors have given Chase a clean bill of health.
“Wesley is a very happy baby. He just doesn’t miss a thing. He’s such a joy,” Chase gushes of her son. “He is the first grandchild on both sides of the family, so he’s spoiled and loved so much.”