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Drug unapproved by FDA saves infant's life

Parents of a newborn in Seattle, Washington, received the best Christmas gift of all. Just a few weeks ago, Elise and Bruce Saiaana thought they'd lose their daughter Tatiana, who was born four months ago in critical condition. At her birth, doctors quickly discovered that the baby had inhaled meconium, or amniotic fluid mixed with her stool, which caused her lungs to collapse.

The parents were told their baby might not even survive the ambulance ride to the Seattle Children's Hospital where she was transferred to receive specialized treatment. Doctors put Tatiana on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, which kept her heart and lungs going for about a month. However, because the infant's lungs were still developing, doctors weren't sure she could survive without the aid of the machine.

"I wasn't going to give up on my daughter," Tatiana's dad told Seattle's CBS affiliate KIRO.

"She was still fighting so we had to fight for her, too," said mom. "Once they took her off she would probably go instantly."

Tatiana's parents were told to prepare that they might lose their baby.

Tatiana Saiaana, 4 months old, is now home for Christmas and breathing easier thanks to a life-saving drug that's not currently approved by the FDA. KIRO-TV

Doctors then made a last ditch effort to help Tatiana survive, when they obtained a waiver to use a drug known as perflubron. The drug is an oxygen-rich liquid that fills and expands the lungs then evaporates. It was tested on adults in the 1990s but was scrapped after manufacturers found it did not provide enough benefit as a liquid ventilator. Though perflubron isn't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is available in Canada and Europe.

The drug didn't work right away, and her parents were told once again to prepare for her loss. But soon they began to see improvements and Tatiana started breathing on her own.

"If it wasn't for that drug then there would be nothing left to do for her," said Mom."The gift of having her home is the only gift we wanted this Christmas."

The couple hopes their experience may help to get the drug approved in the U.S. for children like their daughter.

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