Surgery on Unborn Baby at 20 Weeks Removes Orange-Sized Cyst

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 7, 2013   |   11:53AM   |   Milwaukee, WI

The surgery on unborn child Samuel Armas more than a dozen years ago received international attention thanks to the amazing picture of Samuel grabbing a doctor’s hand during the surgery.

Such pre-birth medical procedure are more common than most people think, but the way in which physicians can help unborn babies with medical problems in the womb is simply amazing.

From Wisconsin comes the story of Elijah Leffingwell. Doctors gave little Elijah only a 50% chance of survival after April Leffingwell’s first 20-week ultrasound first revealed a macro-cyst. A surgery has given the little guy a new lease on life:



“Thousands of tiny little cysts all the way around the lower left lobe of his lung,” said Jason Leffingwell.

“It was so scary. I didn’t understand. Why me? I didn’t think it was fair,” April Leffingwell said.

So began the Leffingwell’s journey to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where they met fetal surgeon Dr. Scott Adzick.

Dr. Adzick had video taken of little Elijah’s surgery — a complex, high-risk operation that required taking Elijah partly out of his mother’s womb just halfway through her pregnancy. Dr. Adzick then removed a mass the size of an orange from Elijah’s lung.

“The mass in the chest is huge and it’s just totally crushing the heart and putting the baby into heart failure,” Dr. Adzick said.

At one point, Elijah’s heart, then the size of a dime, stopped.

“I massaged the heart for awhile to bring the fetus back,” Dr. Adzick said.

Elijah returned to his mother’s womb, and two months later, he was born premature in Philadelphia.

“It was very emotional and very sad because I literally saw him for five seconds,” April Leffingwell said.

Doctors whisked Elijah away, and he then spent nine days on life support undergoing more surgeries. Nine weeks after his birth, the Leffingwells finally took their son home to Wisconsin.