Doctors in England performed a life-saving surgery on a baby who was born with her heart outside of her chest.
Nottingham resident Naomi Findlay was scheduled to give birth to a baby girl on Christmas Eve, but when doctors realized the baby was suffering from an “incredibly rare condition,” they decided to deliver her more than a month early, the Leicester Hospital said in a press release.
Doctors first noticed a potential complication in scans when Findlay was 13 weeks pregnant. Three weeks later, they confirmed that the baby’s heart was beating outside of her chest.
“Other than that, the baby appeared essentially normal,” said fetal cardiology consultant Frances Bu’Lock.
Findlay and the baby’s father, Dean Wilkins, then had specialized blood tests done to check risk levels of possibility chromosomal abnormalities or other problems that were not detected in scans.
“When the results of that test came back as low risk of any abnormalities we jumped up and down in the living room and cried,” Wilkins said. “At that point we decided to fight to give our daughter the best chance of surviving.”
Doctors explained to the soon-to-be parents that the baby would need surgery as soon as she was born so they could work to keep the heart safe so it could go back into the chest cavity and be covered with skin.
“However, chances of successful surgery and long term survival were very poor,” Bu’Lock said. “They understood that and wanted to continue with the pregnancy.”
On Nov. 22, a team of more than 50 helped to deliver with the birth of Vanellope Hope Wilkins via caesarean section, the hospital said. She was immediately wrapped in a sterile bag to protect her heart, and after saying a “quick hello to mom and dad,” she was whisked away to surgery.
Vanellope was given only a 10 percent chance to live. But, she was born in good condition and less than an hour after she was born, was determined to be healthy enough to undergo surgery.
The baby then had to stay in the hospital for several weeks while doctors waited for her to get big enough to place her heart back in her chest.
“She has a long way to go but so far at least she now has a chance at a future,” Consultant Anesthetist Dr. Nick Moore said at the time.
After three intensive but successful surgeries, Vanellope is now on the way to recovery.
Findlay said she had prepared herself “for the worst,” adding that she was “grateful” for everything the “amazing” hospital had done for her and her daughter.
“I had brought an outfit to hospital that she could wear if she died,” Findlay said. I’m now confident she won’t wear it so I’m going to donate it to the hospital.
Wilkins said he “couldn’t begin to thank” the doctors for what they’ve done for his “girls.”
“The moment she was born I realised that we had made the right decision. We know this is going to be a rollercoaster and have started to prepare ourselves for the difficult times ahead, but we needed to give her a chance, and the team here have done that,” he said.