At 16 weeks Margaret Boemer went in for an ultrasound like all soon-to-be mums do. But, what happened next was very far from normal.
The mum-to-be got news that no parent wants to hear—her baby had a massive tumour. Boemer, from Plano, Texas in the US, said, “They saw something on the scan, and the doctor came in and told us that there was something wrong with our baby and that she had sacrococcygeal teratoma.” Sounds scary, right?
Well, it is.
According to Texas Children’s Hospital, sacrococcygeal teratoma (or SCT) is a tumour that grows on the tailbone and occurs in one out of every 35,000 births. Usually it’s removed in the days following delivery, however, in some cases (like Boemer’s baby), the tumour starts competing with foetal blood supply. When this happens, the baby’s heart rate can drop or even stop completely. For Boemer, the diagnosis meant that her baby needed to have the tumour removed—sooner rather than later.
By 23 weeks the tumour was shutting down the baby’s tiny heart. At this point there was little hope that the baby would survive long enough for Boemer to safely deliver. The mum was told the unthinkable, she would have to terminate the pregnancy. But then Dr. Darrell Cass, co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center and Associate Professor of Surgery, Paediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College Medicine, gave her another option. Dr. Cass told the mum that they could possibly save her baby through a risky foetal surgery.
Would the surgery guarantee that the baby would survive? No. There was a chance that the 23-week-old foetus would not survive the procedure. There was also a chance that the surgery would put Boemer’s life in jeopardy. At this point, the mum decided to do anything she could to save her baby. This wasn’t the first time that Boemer faced heartbreak during her pregnancy. Initially carrying twins, the mum had already lost one of the babies (during her first trimester).
Boemer and her family decided to go ahead and have the surgery. By this point the tumour had grown to roughly the same size as the baby. The mum went in for a five-hour surgery.
Dr. Cass and his colleague Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, opened the mum’s uterus (extremely carefully, mind you) and removed as much of the tumour as they could. The incision that the doctors made had to be large enough to reach the baby-sized tumour. Dr. Cass noted that Boemer’s baby was, “hanging out in the air.” He went on to say, “Essentially, the foetus is outside, like completely out, all the amniotic fluid falls out, it’s actually fairly dramatic.”
So, while the baby wasn’t technically “born,” she was indeed outside of her mum’s womb. After surgically removing most of the tumour (the medical pros couldn’t get to it all), the docs put the baby back into her mum and closed the uterus.
Was the surgery a success? Yes it was! But, that doesn’t mean it was in any way easy—for anyone involved. At one point the baby’s heart almost stopped. Thanks to the skillful acts of the medical team, Boemer’s unborn (yet, kind of born) baby lived.
Following the surgery, Boemer had to remain on bed rest. Yep, that meant 12 weeks if rest. At 36 weeks baby LynLee Hope was born via C-section at 5 pounds and 5 ounces. Eight days later baby LynLee had a second surgery, having the rest of the tumour removed.
A few weeks later the new mum took her baby home—healthy and happy! Wow! Isn’t medical technology amazing!!