21-Week Unborn Baby Had Life-Saving Heart Surgery While He Was in the Womb

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 31, 2017   |   6:03PM   |   Washington, DC

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is world-renowned for developing innovative new surgical procedures to help save babies’ lives before they are born.

Doctors at the hospital recently performed heart surgery on a 21-week unborn baby while he was still in his mother’s womb, and removed a tumor that almost killed him, CBS 3 in Philadelphia reports.

“His heart at the time of surgery was the size of a peanut. The size of the tumor was three-times the size of the heart,” surgeon Dr. Jack Rychik told the news station. “Had we waited an additional day, we probably would have been too late.”

Rychik and his team performed the fetal heart surgery in October, and baby Juan was born on Dec. 11. Earlier this month, doctors declared him well enough to go home, according to the report.

Parents Cecilia Cella and Pablo Paladino traveled all the way from Uruguay in South America to give their unborn son a chance at life.

Cella said it was during her five-month ultrasound scan that her doctor detected the tumor on Juan’s heart. Her doctor is friends with Dr. Rychik in Philadelphia and sent the images of Juan’s heart to him, the family said.

Cella said she did not believe it at first when her doctor said she and Juan could undergo surgery to remove the life-threatening tumor.

“I started laughing,” she said. “Like, what? They do that!”

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The family quickly traveled to Philadelphia where a medical team performed surgery on Juan and his mother when she was 21 weeks pregnant. The surgery went well, but when Juan was born, doctors discovered that the tumor had regrown; and they performed a second surgery to remove it, according to the report.

“It was a hard time, crazy time, but we are extremely happy how everything was solved,” Paladino told CBS before the family headed home.

According to the hospital, Juan is the second baby to survive the life-saving fetal heart surgery. The first, Tucker Roussin, is 4 years old now.

Hundreds of children are alive today thanks to new medical advances in fetal surgeries. Elijah Leffingwell is another example. In 2012, the Philadelphia hospital partially removed Elijah from his mother’s womb after 25 weeks of pregnancy and successfully cut out an orange-sized cyst from his left lung. Then, they placed him back in the womb to continue growing. The surgery saved Elijah’s life.

“There wasn’t a choice in our head,” his mother, April, said. “We weren’t going to abort, and we weren’t going to let a tumor kill our child. We were going to do everything we could to save our child.”

These stories are amazing examples of the value of babies in the womb and lengths to which some families and doctors will go to save that baby’s life before he or she is ever born.


LifeNews Note: Fetal surgery file photo.