Little Vanellope Hope Wilkins would not be alive today if her mother had listened to her doctors’ repeated urgings to have an abortion.
At just nine weeks of pregnancy, Vanellope was diagnosed with ectopia cordis, a condition where the heart grows outside of the chest, the Daily Mail reports. Doctors advised Naomi Findlay, of Nottingham, England, to abort her unborn daughter after they said Vanellope had “next to zero” chance of survival.
Wilkins refused, despite repeated pressure to consider abortion; and today, baby Vanellope is alive and getting better every day.
“We were told our best bet was to terminate and my whole world just fell to bits,” said Dean Wilkins, Vanellope’s father.
Findlay described the pressure that they were under to choose abortion.
“All the way through it, it was ‘the chances of survival are next to none, the only option is to terminate, we can offer counselling’, and things like that,” she said. “In the end, I just said that termination is not an option for me. If [death] was to happen naturally, then so be it.”
Several weeks later, the British family found a glimmer of hope for their daughter. Scans conducted at 13 and 16 weeks of pregnancy revealed that Vanellope “appeared essentially normal,” except for her heart, according to the report.
Dr. Frances Bu’Lock, consultant pediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, led the team that worked to save Vanellope’s life.
“It was decided that delivery by caesarean section would be best to reduce the risks of infection, risks of trauma or squashing of the heart during delivery, and that surgery to provide some sort of covering to the heart would be needed immediately after baby was delivered,” Bu’Lock said.
On Nov. 22, a month before her due date, Vanellope was born by cesarean section and immediately rushed to surgery.
Findlay said she felt so relieved when Vanellope came out of the womb crying. She did not have much time to see her newborn daughter, though. Vanellope was rushed to surgery where a team of 50 doctors, nurses and midwives worked to save her life, according to the report.
Around 50 minutes after birth, Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre – where surgical teams began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.
They carefully stretched apart a tuppence-sized chest hole to create more space for the heart, and installed a protective membrane over the beating organ.
Over the next nine days, lying on her back in intensive care, Vanellope’s heart gradually sank into the hole in her chest.
Later, the report continued:
Vanellope has already beaten odds of eight-in-one-million to have the condition and survive until birth.
Vanellope still is recovering in the hospital, but her doctors said her chances of survival are growing every day.
“‘I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate,” her mother said. “I genuinely didn’t think my baby would survive, but the staff at Glenfield have been amazing. Now, looking at her, I just want to pick her up and hold her close and I wouldn’t want to put her down.”