Baby Born With Her Heart Outside Her Body Survives Against All Odds

December 13, 2017 Updated: September 25, 2019

A baby has been born with her heart outside her body, with amazing footage of her birth now being made public.

Vanellope Hope Watkins was born on Nov. 22 at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, UK. She was due on Christmas Eve, but her condition—ectopia cordis—meant she had to be born early by cesarean section.

Ectopia cordis is a rare and serious congenital malformation in which the heart is located partially or totally outside the chest. Babies born with the condition often have less than a 10 percent chance of survival.

The condition was discovered nine weeks into the pregnancy, in a scan that showed Vanellope’s heart and part of her stomach were growing outside her body.

Following the birth, mother Naomi Findlay said, according to the Metro: “I started to panic, I actually felt physically sick because I actually thought there was a big possibility I wouldn’t be able to see her or hear her, or anything really.

“But when she came out and she came out crying that was it, the relief fell out of me.”

According to doctors the first 10 minutes after the birth were crucial.

Father Dean Wilkins told the news outlet: “What they said is, when the baby is born she has got to be able to breathe in our oxygen. Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off—it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope’s unusual name was inspired by a character in the Disney film “Wreck-It Ralph”, said mother Naomi.

“Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting,” she said.

East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre lead surgeon Branko Mimic was, however, pragmatic about the birth, saying that her case is very rare because everything else appears normal. “Whilst therefore it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this,” he said.

Immediately after the birth, Vanellope was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. She was then anaesthetised and given an operation to give fluids and support her heart.

According to the Independent, consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre where she had been born to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

Vanellope will now stay in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit for several weeks while she gets stronger and bigger, until ultimately her heart can be placed fully within her chest.

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