Baby's Heart Placed Back inside Her Chest in Rare Surgeries

Ignored advice Parents Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins are overjoyed

Her mother, Naomi Findlay was wheeled into theatre just after 9am and was met by four main teams of doctors, midwives, nurses and allied health professionals.

Findlay and Dean Wilkins, Vanellope's father, knew from an ultrasound at nine weeks that the baby's heart and part of her stomach had begun to grow outside of her body.

"I genuinely didn't think my baby would survive, but the staff at Glenfield have been fantastic".

However, when a blood test confirmed that a risk of other chromosomal abnormalities was low, Findlay and Wilkins made a decision to fight for their child's life. Doctors say she's now doing well, though she remains on a ventilation machine.

This allowed staff to carry out the final operation which involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it round to join in the middle of her body.

Doctors told new parents Naomi Findley and Dean Wilkins their baby Vanellope had nearly no chance of survival because of an extremely rare condition that caused her to be born with her heart outside of her chest. "However, chances of successful surgery and long term survival were very poor; they understood that and wanted to continue with the pregnancy".

East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre lead surgeon Branko Mimic said: "Cases such as Vanellope's, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst therefore it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore nearly impossible to be confident of this". Probably less than one baby is born with this a year in the UK.

Doctor's told the parents the first ten minutes of Vanellope's life on earth would be the most crucial.

Battling Baby Vanellope in an incubator with her little heart just visible
Battling Baby Vanellope in an incubator with her little heart just visible

"When she cried, we cried".

Medical News Today reported on a March 2017 study that found six children born alive with the condition in the U.S. had survived to at least one, at least one of whom had a good quality of life, with two others living on a ventilator. "She cried at birth and coped well with the early stabilization and her heart continued to beat effectively", said Glenfield Consultant Neonatologist Jonathan Cusack. During the stabilisation, we continually dripped warmed saline solution onto her heart to stop the tissues drying whilst she was under a warmer.

After seven days, medics decided they could conduct the second operation, which was to open her chest a bit more so they could create more space for the heart to fit back in.

Ectopia cordis is estimated to affect just under eight babies per million live births, according to the hospital, with less than a 10% chance of survival.

Cases such as Vanellope's, where everything else is essentially normal, are even rarer.

Dean told me: "We were advised to have a termination and that the chances of survival were next to none - no-one believed she was going to make it except us".

"We know this is going to be a rollercoaster and have started to prepare ourselves for the hard times ahead, but we needed to give her a chance, and the team here have done that".



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