A couple is celebrating the birth of their “miracle baby”. Encouraged to terminate when the baby would be born with her heart outside of her body. They knew their baby deserved a chance to live.
Naomi and Dean were warned by doctors that their baby girl was very ill. They knew that her chance for survival was very small. The couple believed that she had to be given a chance.
Vanellope Hope had a Christmas Eve due date. When doctors realized her poor condition, it was determined she must be born early by cesarean section on November 22. Vanellope was diagnosed with ectopia cordis. Her heart and half of her stomach were growing outside of her body.
"Both Naomi and I were holding our breath waiting for her to take her first breath; we didn't dare breathe until she took her first breath.” Dean shared
“When she cried, we cried. I felt hopeless and just held onto Naomi and was staring into her eyes praying that it was all going to be ok."
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Heart Outside Of Her Body
Naomi and Dean had been advised by doctors to terminate the pregnancy. But neither felt that was the right path.
“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…In the end I just said that termination is not an option for me, if it was to happen naturally then so be it.” Naomi told reporters.
After birth, this “miracle baby” was sent into surgery to create room in her chest cavity for her heart. This was the first of many surgeries.
Normally, there is an indent on the left lung that makes way for the heart to fit, but Vanellope was missing this. Doctors began to place her heart in it’s proper location. They had to rely on gravity to make the proper fit for her heart against the lung. The process took about two weeks before Vanellope’s heart was in place.
Protecting Vanellope’s Heart
This little baby’s fight wasn’t over. She also was born without a natural rib cage or sternum to protect the internal organs. Doctors had to create one from surgical mesh. Until her body fully adjusts to the newly placed organs, Vanellope remains on a ventilator.
While the road has been difficult, emotionally draining, and worrisome, Vanellope’s parents still fully believe they have made the right decision.
Dean says, "The moment she was born I realized that we had made the right decision. We know this is going to be a rollercoaster and have started to prepare ourselves for the difficult times ahead, but we needed to give her a chance, and the team here have done that.”
Ectopia cordis is very rare, babies who are successfully born still have less than a 10% chance of survival. Still doctors and the family remain hopeful that Vanellope, the little ‘miracle baby’ will be one of the great success stories.
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