Margaret Boemer, from Plamer, Texas, was 16 weeks pregnant, expecting her third child. The pregnancy hadn’t been an easy one—she was originally supposed to have twins, but unfortunately one of them died in the womb.
The other child, a girl named LynLee, survived and seemed to be progressing well—until a routine ultrasound revealed a bombshell.
The baby had a massive tumor growing on its spine.
“It almost looks like there’s a whole other head,” Boemer told Inside Edition.
The doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital ran some tests, and doctors delivered a dire-sounding diagnosis: the baby had sacrococcygeal teratoma.
“It was very shocking and scary, because we didn’t know what that long word meant or what diagnosis that would bring,” Boemer told CNN.
Sacrococcygeal teratoma is the most common tumor found in newborns but still occurs rarely. According to CNN, it occurs in 1 in 35,000 births.
But the defect can wreak havoc on the child’s development. The growing tumor disrupts the blood flow, potentially causing fatal heart rate irregularity.
For Boemer’s baby, things were looking grim.
“LynLee didn’t have much of a chance,” Boemer said. “At 23 weeks, the tumor was shutting her heart down and causing her to go into cardiac failure.”
So to save the baby’s life, doctors proposed a drastic measure:
Performing surgery on the fetus by temporarily removing it from the womb.
“We knew that if we didn’t choose the option of emergency surgery that night, that within a day or so she would pass,” Boemer recalled to KPRC2.
However, it wouldn’t be an easy procedure. The fetal surgery would take 5 hours—and it wasn’t a guaranteed success. LynLee was only given a 50–50 chance of survival.
But she would almost certainly die without it, so the odds were still an improvement. Boemer didn’t think twice.
“It was an easy decision for us: We wanted to give her life,” she told CNN.
A team of surgeons from the Texas Children’s Fetal Center began the surgery—and realized that the baby’s tumor had grown as large as its body. This required a very large incision, and the fetus was completely evicted from the womb.
In this life or death situation, the team had to move fast.
“The part on the fetus we do very, very quickly,” hospital co-director Dr. Darrell Cass told CNN. “It’s only 20 minutes or so on the actual fetus.”
During the surgery, doctors became concerned when LynLee’s heart rate dropped dramatically, but a heart specialist on the team was able to stabilize her with medication, allowing them to continue.
But the surgery was a success. The doctors were able to remove the bulk of the tumor, and were then able to seal her back safely in the uterus.
“It’s kind of a miracle you’re able to open the uterus like that and seal it all back and the whole thing works,” Dr. Cass said.
Boemer was put on bed rest, but resumed her pregnancy. Twelve weeks later, she gave birth via C-section—this time, for good.
“It was her second birth, basically,” Boemer told KPRC2.
After some tests, LynLee was deemed healthy enough to be transferred to the nursery. But there were still some complications: the tumor on her spine was beginning to regrow, and when she was eight days old, she underwent another surgery to remove her tailbone to prevent it from growing again.
Weeks later, Boemer finally brought LynLee home.
The baby is now over a year old, and despite those early medical troubles, she’s been growing beautifully.
“She’s very smart,” she told Inside Edition.
“She loves to run and walk, which is a miracle in itself.”
Looking at her baby girl now, Boemer knows that it was worth the long and complicated pregnancy.
“It was very difficult,” Boemer told CNN. “[But] it was worth every pain.”
And now in honor of the medical miracle that saved her life, the family celebrates two birthdays for LynLee.
Watch the video below:
(Warning: contains some graphic surgery footage)