Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins from the UK found out they were expecting their first child this summer, and it was a happy occasion. Not long after, they were able to get their first images of their baby—Vanellope Hope.
The baby seemed a bit bigger—but then at nine weeks pregnant, the sonogram returned showed something very scary.
Vanellope Hope’s heart and stomach had started growing outside of her body.
Doctors told the couple that this was a huge risk, as there was only a small chance that the baby would survive. But Naomi and Dean wanted to fight for a chance. They decided to undergo tests to see if there were any other problems.
And when the scans came back clear—“We jumped up and down in the living room and cried,” Dean said.
“At that point we decided to fight to give our daughter the best chance of surviving,” he said.
From then on, it was a tense pregnancy, as Naomi would need to keep the baby in her womb for as close to the due date as possible to ensure that the baby was well developed and no other problems occurred. But having such a vital organ as her heart being outside of her body, Vanellope Hope was at risk every step of the way.
According to the hospital, at 25 weeks into the term, the baby’s heartbeat was a lot slower than normal—but she pulled through and kept on growing.
Then, two months before her due date, the medical team put together a plan to ensure the best chance for the baby’s survival.
Like something out of a medical drama, the hospital had to call in a slew of people to perform a miracle under what seemed like a unique and impossible situation.
That meant an MRI for the mother to check for the bone structure of the baby, and a team of fetal medicine doctors, obstetricians, anaesthetists, cardiac surgeons, and abdominal surgeons coming together to review each step of the process that would have to happen quickly after the mother’s C-section.
“We talked through this plan with Naomi and Dean so that they understood what we needed to do, and how we would all work together to keep Naomi and her baby safe,” consultant Frances Bu’Lock told the hospital.
In total, 50 people were on standby the morning of Vanellope Hope’s birth, ready to play their part.
That morning, Naomi and Dean were holding their breath, waiting for the outcome.
It felt like they didn’t take a breath until she took her first.
“When she cried, we cried,” Dean said. “I felt hopeless and just held onto Naomi and was staring into her eyes praying that it was all going to be okay.”
The baby was born via C-section, immediately placed in a plastic bag, and the couple caught a glimpse of her before she was whisked away for the heart-stopping surgery.
Other than the fact that her heart and bowel were outside of her body, the doctors said she was “born in good condition.”
She was given a breathing tube, sedated, and then special lines were inserted to give her fluids and medication as they operated. Less than an hour later, she was completely stable.
Now they just had to put her heart back into her body.
According to the hospital, babies born with this condition have only a 10 percent chance of survival—and they rarely have conditions where everything else is normal as Venellope did.
That meant the main concern was positioning her heart right, and then to wait and see if her condition would change.
On November 22, she was transfered to the NICU, where she stayed several weeks under watch as doctors and her parents hoped she would grow strong enough.
On December 13, it was basically a sure thing.
“She has a long way to go but so far at least she now has a chance at a future,” anaesthetist Nick Moore said.
Her parents had prepared themselves for the worst, and walked away with one of the best scenarios that could have happened in this situation.
Vanellope Hope is the first baby in the UK born with her heart outside of her body who has survived.
Naomi had walked into the hospital that day with a special outfit prepared for the baby if she had had to wear it.
“I’m now confident she won’t wear it,” she told the hospital. “I can’t put in words how grateful I am for everything they have done.”
Dean was relieved and joyous they had made the right decision, no matter how difficult.
“We know this is going to be a rollercoaster,” he said.
Vanellope Hope Wilkins was born with her heart outside of her body. She is the first in UK to survive the rare condition. http://www.itv.com/news/2017-12-13/heart-vanellope-hope-wilkins-survive/
Posted by ITV Central on Wednesday, December 13, 2017