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'I wanted to give him a life' - couple talks about impact of baby who lived for only 17 hours

The ultrasound revealed a baby boy, but his skull and brain were severely deformed.

GRETNA, La. — We often talk about about the lives of those who died recently.

We look back at their legacies, and at the impact they had while alive.

This story is about Luke. His life was short, but in less than a day, he taught his parents about love and brought awareness to the world about a serious birth defect.

If you are a parent, you will understand the love Alex Manguno and Chris Ditta have in their hearts. If you've ever lost a child, you will undoubtedly grieve with them over their agonizing pain. 

"I was just really excited and couldn't wait. I mean it was my dreams, my dream just to have a baby. It's all I ever wanted," said Alex Manguno, 27, about the day she found out she was pregnant.

That dream came true around Thanksgiving. But that dream was shattered 16 weeks later. The ultrasound revealed a baby boy, but his skull and brain were severely deformed. It's called anencephaly. They were advised to end the pregnancy.

"Like I just had to throw him away. Like, like he wasn't, didn't have a heartbeat or anything which wasn't true. That's not what I want to do. I want to give him a life, give him a chance, see what happens," said Manguno through tears.

On May 30, baby Luke Michael Ditta arrived two months early. His names are from the bible and the Archangel, Saint Michael.

"They wanted to do skin to skin and I said, 'Yes.' immediately, and I got to change his diaper and everything. I was really excited," said Luke's father Chris Ditta, 22, about the first time he got to hold his son.

Luke's grandmother was the last to hold him.

"We had 17 of the most wonderful hours that I'll never forget. I rocked him. He passed in my arms. And my daughter and them gave me that gift," said Roxane Murla, Luke's maternal grandmother. 

"As much heartache and as much pain as we've been through and we're going through, it just pales in comparison to how grateful we are for the strength Alex and Chris showed to go forward with this birth," said Pete Murla, Roxane's brother, and Luke's grand uncle.

That's one message from Luke's family, the other is for women of child-bearing age to take their folic acid to help lower the risk of this brain birth defect.

"What's recommended from studies that showed folic acid can prevent neural tube defects, is taking it several months prior to conceiving. In fact the recommended number is 400 micrograms daily and those can be found in your regular prenatal vitamin," explained Dr. Cecilia Gambala, a Tulane Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist. She did not treat the Ditta family. 

"And I'm so glad I made that decision even though it hurts, because I got to spend time with him," said Manguno.

If you would like to help with baby Luke's funeral or medical expenses, click here

An Anencephaly support group can be reached here