Baby Born With Heart Outside Her Chest Beats the Odds, Doing Great 20 Months Later

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Nov 25, 2016   |   6:12PM   |   Washington, DC

The Veitz family has plenty to be thankful for this year.

Two years ago near Thanksgiving, the Bismarck, North Dakota couple heard some of the worst news that any parent could hear: their unborn baby had a very rare heart condition that could claim her life.

Though the future seemed grim for their baby girl, Caitlin and Brian Veitz chose life for her. Today, Kieran Veitz is almost 2 years old and doing well, the Today Show reports.

Back in November 2014, Caitlin Veitz found it difficult to hope after her 20-week pregnancy checkup. During the appointment, doctors discovered that her unborn daughter had ectopia cordis, a rare condition where the heart grows outside of the chest. In Kieran’s case, her liver also was growing outside of her chest, according to the report.

“We kind of thought it was over before we could even begin,” Caitlin said. “We were certain something like this would be fatal quickly, even if it hadn’t proven to be just yet.”

After meeting with specialists, however, the couple felt a little more hopeful. Their doctors believed that if Kieran survived the surgery to place her organs back inside her ribs, she could lead a relatively normal life. The report does not mention abortion, but families often are presented with it as an option when their unborn babies are diagnosed with medical problems.

“I wanted to go forward and help her as long as she wanted to fight,” her mother said.

Here’s more from the report:

Veitz was scheduled for a cesarean section for week 37, but at her 36-week appointment, doctors became concerned with Kieran’s vitals and decided to schedule the surgery that day.

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“Over 60 doctors and nurses from 12 different specialty teams (from obstetrics, anesthesia, cardiology, neonatal and more) came together in an hour and a half to get Kieran into the world as smoothly as possible,” Veitz recounted.

In five hours, the team was able to place Kieran’s heart back inside her body and move her to the cardiac intensive care unit.

The Veitzs said Kieran spent three months in the hospital before they could take her home. Now, 20 months later, they said their daughter is doing well. Kieran needs another heart operation, but doctors are hopeful that she will come through it well, the report states.

“We started out saying we would be here for her as long she felt like fighting,” her mother said. “Then she made it to birth, one day, two days, three days, a week, a month, six months, a year and now 20 months old, about to turn 2.

“She’s essentially re-writing what most know about the condition,” she added. “She’s going to grow up. She’s going to do everything anyone else gets to do.”