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Pregnant, brain dead Victoria B.C. woman kept alive until baby can be born

Robyn Benson was 22 weeks pregnant when she tragically suffered a brain hemorrhage. Her husband, Dylan, had gone out to get her some Tylenol after she started complaining of a crushing headache, and when he returned Robyn was unconscious on their bathroom floor, but still breathing.

Despite repeated attempts to revive her, doctors discovered blood had leaked in to Robyn’s brain and she would never wake up.

Doctors declared her brain dead, and have kept her alive for the past five weeks until the couple’s unborn baby can be delivered via C-section.

That time will come at the end of February when their son, who will be called Iver Cohen Benson, will be at or near 34 weeks.

Baby Iver. Credit: Online campaign. Baby Iver / Online campaign

Dylan has started an online campaign to raise money for him and his son. As a single dad, Dylan must now take more time off work, and buy supplies for his baby.

“Our family and close friends are all very supportive and all think that my wife would want me to try and give our child the best life possible, so that’s what I’m going to try and do,” Dylan wrote on his blog. “Assuming that the C-section is successful, of course my son will then spend the next several weeks in the hospital under intensive care until he is ready to be released to me.”

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“She was my rock,” wrote Dylan. “She did so much for us, and I can’t believe I won’t get to talk to her again. It is very difficult to know that our son will grow up never meeting his wonderful mother, and that we will have to say our goodbyes to Robyn within hours of seeing Iver for the first time.”

The online campaign has already reached its goal of $36,000, but remaining funds will go towards living costs, the costs associated with supporting Iver, his education fund and towards moving Dylan and Iver to a more suitable living space.

A donation from selected purchases at all six Liquor Plus stores in Victoria will also be added to the fund, and customers can donate extra money.

Rod Phillips, owner of Liquor Plus, met Dylan last year after he sent out a tweet saying he wanted to have coffee with someone he’s never met before. Dylan responded to the tweet, the two met and discovered they had a lot in common, and have been friends ever since.

Phillips said he heard about Robyn’s situation through another friend, and set up the fundraising initiative in his stores.

“Being a parent I know it’s almost impossible to predict exactly what you need,” said Phillips. “So I imagine with lots of the challenges that [Dylan is] going to face, more is better.”
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Another friend helping out Dylan and his family is radio presenter Jeremy Baker. He works for the The Zone @91-3. “The thing about Dylan, is that he’s been strong during an obviously, I mean he was upset but he’s a pretty powerful guy,” said Baker.

“I think for any dad who has kids, you think about it and it’s really sad to lose your wife or lose your partner, and then to raise the kid would be an insane challenge,” said Baker. “And Dylan’s having to think about that, and he’s doing it, and he’s got friends and family and Robyn’s got friends and family in Victoria and they’re all helping Dylan.”

The radio station has a charity fund that listeners contribute to, and they have set aside some funds to help Dylan and buy things for baby Iver.

“[Dylan] said that the challenge is that [Robyn’s] body is still alive, so when he holds her hand, her hand is warm and she is breathing,” said Baker. “But his mind knows that she won’t wake up after the baby is born.”

Researchers from Heidelberg University in Germany looked at 19 cases from around the world between 1982 to 2010 where a pregnant woman was kept on life support after being declared brain dead. Out of those cases, 12 babies were delivered by C-section and died soon after. Six of the others survived, and one died in utero. However, most of the fetuses were young and had only developed up to about 15 weeks when the mother went into medical distress.

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“The doctors have said that [Iver] now has higher than an 80% of survival and that increases with every day that passes,” wrote Dylan. “There are roughly 30 published medical records of this type of thing being attempted, but so far, amazingly, they have been successful.”

In a similar case last November, Marlise Munoz was declared brain dead but kept on machines for the sake of her fetus. After a lengthy battle with the hospital, a judge ruled Munoz be taken off life support and allowed to die. The fetus, which was at 23 weeks’ gestation, was not delivered. When she collapsed from what doctors believe was a blood clot in her lungs, Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant.

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