Some parents make the tragic decision to abort their unborn child when they find out their baby has a disability. But Frankie Lavis’s mother chose to try to save her daughter’s life instead.
The Express reports that Gina Lavis discovered her unborn daughter, Frankie, had spina bifida when she was about 20 weeks pregnant. The congenital disorder causes the bones of the spine to form wrongly and leaves the nerves in the spinal cord exposed and vulnerable to damage, the report states.
Rather than abort, Gina chose to pursue a risky procedure that, if successful, would help Frankie overcome her disability. The British mother was referred to a doctor in Belgium who recommended a new type of surgery to correct her baby’s spine while she was still in the womb.
The report continues:
A seven inch hole was cut into Gina’s abdomen and womb.
The team then patched the hole in Frankie’s back using synthetic materials.
Dr. Ross Welch, a fetal medicine consultant based at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, who referred Gina for the operation in Belgium, said: “This was a high risk procedure, particularly to the mother as there is a risk of bleeding.
“There is also a risk to the unborn baby which can be born prematurely.
“But having a success like this is one of the reasons why I do the job.”
The three-hour surgery, the first of its type on a baby in the UK, was a success. Frankie is 14 months old now and learning to walk, according to the report.
“It’s a miracle,” Gina Lavis said. “She is showing the first signs of walking and has none of the crippling paralysis that affects many spina bifida babies. This wonderful operation looks to have changed everything for Frankie.”
A Michigan family experienced a similar success after a doctors performed surgery to correct their unborn son’s myelomeningocele spine bifida last year. Baby Carter Hilton also is doing better than expected.
In the U.S., 13 hospitals perform the new fetal surgery to help unborn babies diagnosed with spina bifida. In 2003, the National Institute of Health’s Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS) found that closing the spinal defect in utero reduced the need for shunts after birth and boosted the child’s chances of walking independently. Doctors are also hopeful that the procedure reduces the odds of learning disabilities as well.
Tragically, 68% of unborn children who are diagnosed with spina bifida in utero die from abortion. However, stories like Frankie’s and Carter’s bring hope that more babies like them will be given a chance at life.