MIRACLE: Baby survives out-of-womb tumor removal surgery, was re-placed for full term
A baby girl in Texas has been “born” twice after she was taken out of her mother’s womb for 20 minutes for life-saving surgery at the 23rd week five days of her gestational age.
At the 16th week of her pregnancy, Ms. Margaret Hawkins Boemer discovered that her daughter Lynlee Hope had a tumour on her spine.
The mass, known as a sacrococcygeal teratoma, was diverting blood from the foetus – raising the risk of fatal heart failure.
Sacrococcygeal teratoma is a tumor that develops before birth and grows from a baby’s coccyx, the tailbone. This is the most common tumor seen in a newborn. Found more often in girls than boys, this tumor occurs in one out of every 35,000 births.
This was not the first tragedy that struck Ms. Boemer. She had been expecting twins, but lost one of them before the second trimester.
On detection of the tumour, she was initially advised to terminate her pregnancy before doctors at Texas Children’s Fetal Center suggested the risky surgery.
Ms. Boemer told CNN: “At 23 weeks, the tumour was shutting her heart down and causing her to go into cardiac failure, so it was a choice of allowing the tumour to take over her body or giving her a chance at life.
“It was an easy decision for us: We wanted to give her life.”
Baby Lynlee weighed just 1lb 3oz (0.53kg) when surgeons opened the womb and performed the emergency fetal surgery. The tumour was nearly larger than Lynlee then. She had just 50 per cent chance of survival.
Doctor Darrell Cass and Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye of Texas Children’s Fetal Centre operated for about five hours.
Doctor Darrell Cass of Texas Children’s Fetal Centre was one of the team who carried out the surgery. Dr. Cass told BBC that the tumour had been so large that a “huge” incision was required to reach it, leaving the baby “hanging out in the air”.
Lynlee’s heart virtually stopped during the procedure but a heart specialist kept her alive while most of the tumour was removed within 20 minutes, he added. The team then placed her back in her mother’s womb and sewed her uterus up.
The doctor told CNN that most of the time in foetal surgery is spent in opening the uterus, which is “a big muscle lined with membranes”.
“We don’t want the mom’s health to be jeopardised,” said Cass, who told CNN that they worked carefully, both making the incision and sewing it up in order “to make that uterus be as sealed and as water tight as possible”
Mrs Boemer spent the next 12 weeks on bedrest, and Lynlee entered the world for the second time on 6 June. She was born via Caesarean at almost full term, weighing 5Ib and 5oz, and named after both of her grandmothers.
When Lynlee was eight days old, a further operation helped remove the rest of the tumour from her tailbone.
Dr Cass said the baby girl was now home and thriving. “Baby Boemer is still an infant but is doing beautiful,” he told CNN.
Meanwhile, Ms. Boemer, already mother of two, said: “It was very difficult, but it was worth every pain.”