This Baby Could Have Died Before Birth, But Her Doctor Performed a “Genius” Life-Saving Surgery in the Womb

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 3, 2018   |   9:26AM   |   London, England

Less than a year ago, doctors feared the worst for baby Harriet when they discovered fluid around her lungs.

Still in the womb at the time, Harriet could have died. But Professor Stephen Robson decided to try a risky surgical technique that ended up saving the baby girl’s life, the Sunderland Echo reports.

Harriet’s mother, Ruth Elder, of Chester-le-Street, England, said doctors first noticed the problem when she was 28 weeks pregnant with her daughter. Harriet was diagnosed with hydrops fetalis, “an abnormal accumulation of fluid around the heart, lungs and inside the abdomen of her unborn child,” according to the report.

In attempt to save the unborn baby’s life, Dr. Robson of Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle proposed fetal surgery. He would enter through the wall of the womb and then into the unborn baby’s chest to remove the fluid from around her lungs, the report states.

Though it would be risky and painful, Elder said she and her husband knew they wanted to do what they could to save Harriet’s life.

“It all happened really quickly so there wasn’t a great deal of time to worry about what the procedure would entail, I just wanted them to do whatever they needed to do to try to save our baby,” she said.

Here’s more from the report:

The professor said the shunt was risky but it was the only option as the baby was so ill and without it her chances of survival were low.

He said: “There aren’t a large number of fetal abnormalities that you can treat in the womb, but this option is sometimes available and intervention can be very effective.”

Baby Harriet and her mother came through the surgery well, and she was born six weeks later on July 10, 2017. After several weeks in the hospital, she was well enough to go home in September, according to the report.

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Today, her parents said Harriet is thriving at home.

“We just couldn’t have got through it all without all of the amazing staff at the RVI and the Great North Children’s Hospital, they were all so kind and became like a second family to us,” her mother said. “It was just genius what Professor Robson did, Harriet’s condition was so rare and she was so poorly we weren’t even given odds of survival.”

Like Harriet, other unborn babies also have been saved because of the expanding use of fetal surgery. Last year, The New York Times published an incredibly life-affirming article about a new fetal surgery that is helping unborn babies with spina bifida.

These amazing surgical procedures are not only life-saving but they also recognize that an unborn child is, in fact, a life worth saving.