Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins of Nottingham, England were expecting their first child when they received the unimaginable news. A scan at nine weeks revealed ectopia cordis, an extremely rare deformity that causes internal organs to grow outside the body.
In the case of Naomi and Dean’s baby, her heart and part of her stomach were growing externally as well as a total lack of a breast bone. Ectopia cordis is extremely deadly for newborns, with a less than 10% survival rate.
While there have been cases of successful ectopia cordis surgeries in the United States, so far every case in the UK had been unsuccessful.
“All the way through, it was, ‘The chances of survival are next to none. The only option is to terminate. We can offer counseling,’ and things like that,” said Naomi. “In the end, I just said that termination is not an option for me. If it was to happen naturally, then so be it.”
On November 22, the baby was delivered by cesarean section about a month before her due date. A team of about 50 doctors, nurses, obstetricians, surgeons, anesthetists, and midwives immediately sprang into action to save the baby.
Fetal cardiologist, Dr. Frances Bu’Lock, told the BBC that the procedure was “touch and go” throughout the whole operation. “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that she was stable enough for the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest,” said Dr. Jonathan Cusack, a consultant neonatologist at the hospital.
Despite all the challenges, the surgery wound up being successful and was the first of its kind in Britain, increasing the odds of survival and giving hope to babies born with ectopia cordis in the future.
Since she was born without a breast bone, doctors are planning on designing some sort of artificial sternum to be inserted at a later stage.
The girl was named Vanellope Hope Wilkins. Her parents chose Vanellope after a character in the animated Disney film “Wreck-it Ralph.” “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn, and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting,” said her mother, Naomi. “The Hope part is the fact that she has brought us hope.”
In related news, Jimmy Kimmel's little son also had successful heart surgery. Read the details in the next article below!