Baby survives three surgeries to place heart back inside her chest

Joy Montgomery
December 15, 2017

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

Vanellope's father Dean Wilkins, a 43-year-old builder, said they were told that the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial.

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. She is now on the road to recovery. "When we did the research, we just couldn't physically look because the condition came with so many problems". "At that point we chose to fight to give our daughter the best chance of surviving".

"I had prepared myself for the worst".

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

"I genuinely didn't think my baby would survive, but the staff at Glenfield have been incredible". I can't put in words how grateful I am for everything they have done.

Vanellope was originally due Christmas Eve but was delivered November 22 in order to reduce chances of infection.

The condition, ectopia cordis, is so rare it is thought to affect only 5 to 8 babies for each million live births. 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". The most recent surgery saw Vanellope's own skin used to cover a hole in her chest.

Mr Wilkins said his world "fell to bits" when doctors advised the couple to abort the baby.

A baby girl who was born with a heart outside her body is said to have a fighting start to life after surgery.

"All the way through, it was, "The chances of survival are next to none".

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"We know this is going to be a rollercoaster and have started to prepare ourselves for the hard times ahead, but we needed to give her a chance", Wilkins said in a statement.

"When she cried, we cried".

Wilkins said: "I lost hope a few times, if she didn't move I'd say: "Has she moved today?' and then, the next thing, she'd suddenly move and you'd go: 'Oh she's heard me".

According to the hospital, Vanellope may be the only case in the United Kingdom where the baby has survived.

Consultant Neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: "Vanellope was born in good condition". During the stabilisation, we continually dripped warmed saline solution onto her heart to stop the tissues drying whilst she was under a warmer.

Days later her chest was opened to make space for the heart, which then settled back into her chest due to gravity over the next two weeks.

These babies generally have less than 10 percent chance of survival, depending upon the risks of other conditions along with the ability to place the baby's heart safely back inside the hest.

Cases such as Vanellope's, where everything else is essentially normal, are even rarer.

Frances Bu'Lock, consultant paediatric cardiologist, told the BBC was optimistic about Vanellope's future.

The couple gave her the middle name Hope.

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