Health Care

Baby survives after being born with heart outside body

Baby survives after being born with heart outside body

She was born with ectopia cordis and has no breastbone, so her heart and part of her stomach were growing externally.

Vanellope Hope was supposed to be born Christmas Eve, but a rare heart condition formed during pregnancy prompted doctors to deliver her on November 22.

The latest surgery took place Tuesday at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. Parents Dean Wilkins and Naomi Findlay were told less than 10% of those born with the condition survive.

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

The couple opted for the risky surgery after paying for a blood test to check the risk levels of the three most serious chromosomal problems associated with the condition.

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and anxious throughout the whole pregnancy.

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She had her first surgery 50 minutes after birth and is now making good progress at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

Dean recalled: "When those results came back as low risk of any abnormalities we jumped up and down in the living room and cried".

Naomi told me: "It was a real shock when the ultrasound showed that her heart was outside her chest and scary because we didn't know what would happen".

New father Dean Wilkins said in a statement: "The moment she was born I realized that we had made the right decision". Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag.

After more operations, in two weeks the heart naturally made its way back into the chest following gravity.

Newborns normally have an indent on their left lung which creates space for the heart to fit in but Vanellope did not have this.

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A third operation inserted mesh to protect it like ribs would, and covered up the area with skin taken from under her arms. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

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

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".

Frances Bu'Lock, the consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she described the chances of the baby surviving as "remote". She said: "When Naomi was 13 weeks pregnant I received a call about the potential complications that had been identified by a sonographer in Nottingham".

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the "chances of survival are next to nothing".

The couple gave her the middle name Hope.

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