Little Eiko Crisostomo’s life shines as a beacon of hope to unborn babies in Canada who are diagnosed with spina bifida.
Earlier this year, a team of two dozen medical professionals performed surgery on her while she was still in the womb. Now, doctors said she is thriving.
For years, doctors in the United States have been performing surgery on unborn babies with spina bifida to help lessen the effects of the defect. The innovative surgery now is expanding to Europe and Canada, bringing a hopeful, life-affirming option to families who often feel pressured to abort unborn babies with spina bifida.
Eiko was diagnosed with spina bifida while she was still in the womb, Fox News reports. But a team of surgeons at Mount Sinai Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto gave her parents hope that surgery could help their daughter’s condition.
On June 4, Eiko and her mother, Romeila Son, became the first people in Canada to undergo the procedure, according to a news release from the hospital. Son was 25 weeks pregnant at the time.
The 24-person surgical team spent two and a half hours on Son and her unborn daughter. Doctors said their team temporarily sedated, anesthetized and paralyzed the unborn baby girl with a fine needle through her mother’s abdomen to keep her still and pain-free.
After making incisions in Son’s abdomen and womb, the doctors said they moved the unborn baby girl into a position where they could operate on her spine. They placed a patch over the exposed neural tissue in Eiko’s spine and then used her skin to closed the hole in her back.
The surgery was a success, and Son gave birth to Eiko on Aug. 19, according to the report. The hospital said Eiko has not needed any medical intervention since her birth, which is rare for babies with spina bifida.
“I am extremely proud of the collaboration between Mount Sinai Hospital and SickKids – which has resulted in a terrific outcome for this baby girl. … Having this kind of clinical capacity here in Ontario will really change the range of options available to parents who have been given a diagnosis of spina bifida during pregnancy,” said Dr. Greg Ryan, head of the fetal medicine program at Mount Sinai Hospital, in a statement.
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A 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that unborn babies with spina bifida who undergo the surgery are less likely to require shunts, walking aids or wheelchairs.
Dr. Michael Belfort, a surgeon at Baylor University in Texas, also performs surgeries on unborn babies with spina bifida. He explained that the surgery helps decrease the damage to the spine while the baby still is in the womb. He said the amniotic fluid eats away at the nerve tissue in the gap of the spine, so closing the gap before birth is important.
In 2014, LifeNews reported British doctors performed the first in-utero surgery on an unborn baby girl with spina bifida. The surgery was a success, and by December 2016, 14-month-old Frankie was overcoming her disability and learning to walk.
Currently, at least 13 hospitals in the U.S. perform the fetal surgery on unborn babies with spina bifida.
Researchers estimate that 68 percent of unborn children who are diagnosed with spina bifida die from abortion. However, these new surgical procedures recognize that unborn babies are individual patients who deserve care, not death.