Do you believe in miracles?
Baby Vanellope Hope Wilkins, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, became the first in the United Kingdom to survive ectopia cordis—an extremely unusual condition in which the heart of a fetus is developed partially or completely outside the chest.
It was a miracle because “babies born with this condition generally have less than a 10 percent chance of survival,” University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust stated.
And those who survive birth die within the first few days, per Healthline.
Her parents, Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins, learned about Vanellope’s condition before she was born through an ultrasound scan.
“I burst into tears. When we did the research we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems,” Findlay told Leicester Mercury.
“All the way through it, it was ‘the chances of survival are next to none, the only option is to terminate, we can offer counseling’ and things like that.”
Though the diagnosis came as a shock, the parents refused to accept their doctors’ suggestion to terminate the pregnancy.
“To see, even at nine weeks, a heartbeat—no matter where it was. It was not something I was going to take away,” mom Findlay told BBC.
“In a way her strength gave me a strength to keep going.”
When baby Vanellope was born at 9:50 a.m. on Nov. 22, 2017, in Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, via C-section, her heart—as expected—protruded outside her body.
However, much to her parents’ relief, Vanellope came out crying.
“Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off—it made us so joyful and teary,” dad Wilkins told Leicestershire Live.
Within 50 minutes after Vanellope came into the world, she had her first operation to place her heart back inside her chest.
Several weeks later, the tiny baby underwent two more operations, in which the pediatric surgical teams fully fitted her heart back inside her chest and grafted her skin to seal the hole.
Miraculously, Vanellope pulled through.
“Before she was born things looked very bleak but now they are quite a lot better—Vanellope is doing really well and has proved very resilient,” said Frances Bu’Lock, consultant pediatric cardiologist.
She also added, “I had seen case about 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”
According to Glenfield Hospital, Vanellope was most likely the first U.K. baby with ectopia cordis to survive. They’d heard of no other survival cases in the United Kingdom.
To Findlay and Wilkins, their daughter Vanellope was “a real fighter,” just like the character “Vanellope” in the 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,” Findlay said.
“The Hope part is the fact that she has brought us hope.”
Vanellope still has “a long road ahead”; nonetheless, she has beaten the odds!
“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,” Wilkins said.
“She defying everything—it’s beyond a miracle.”
Fortunately, Findlay and Wilkins stayed hopeful and believed Vanellope would survive. The baby girl is alive today all because of that one choice, to give her a chance.
The parents hope their story will motivate other moms facing similar situations not to lose hope.
“Some moms still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those moms out there a chance,” Wilkins said.
He also added, “Even if years go by, she will still be remembered as a reminder that there is that hope.”
Always believe in miracles! There is always hope.
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