At 16 weeks of pregnancy, a 38 year old Texan, Margaret Hawkins Boemer discovered that her daughter Lynlee had a tumor on her tailbone. This tumor is known as Sacrococcygeal teratoma, a rare form of tumour seen in one out of 30,000-70,000 live births. Its cause is unknown but baby girls are affected four times more often than boys. The mass of tumor was sharing blood supply with the baby as it was diverting blood from the foetus. This increased the risk of fatal heart failure.
The couple were crushed by the news. Only two weeks earlier, they had learned the baby was a girl and they were looking forward to naming her after two grandmothers-Lynlee. Besides, at conception, they initially had twins. They however lost one of the babies six weeks into the pregnancy.
Given the seriousness of this condition, Mrs Boemer was advised to visit two more specialized hospitals in Houston for additional medical opinion.
One hospital “strongly recommended” that the Boemers terminated the pregnancy. The doctors were of the opinion that performing such open fetal surgery was too risky. However, without such a procedure, baby Lynlee would likely die.
However, doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital examined the tumor with cautious optimism. They agreed that in utero surgery would be required. Fortunately, two doctors there: Drs. Darrell Cass and Oluyinka Olutoye, had successfully done such a procedure seven years before. The doctors gave the Boemers a careful analysis of the risks of such a procedure. At 23 weeks and 5 days into her pregnancy — if the surgery failed and Lynlee needed to be delivered, the baby would be just on the edge of viability. It was indeed a 50% chance. But Mrs Boemer took it.
It took Cass, Olutoye and a team of about 20 others to perform the surgery itself. The majority of the time was spent making meticulous incisions into the uterus, then carefully pulling out the lower half of Lynlee’s body.
In the middle of the procedure, Lynlee’s heart stopped. However, a heart specialist was on ground to keep her alive. After the procedure, the team placed the baby back in her mother’s womb and sewed her uterus back. After the procedure, Mrs Boemer was placed on a bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. To the doctor’s relief, the baby continued to grow.
Lynlee was born the second time on June 6 at almost full term via C-section. She weighed 5 pounds and 5 ounces (2.4 kgs). When filling out her birth certificate, the Boemer officially, gave Lynlee her middle name: Hope. When Lynlee was eight days old, she underwent further operation to remove the rest of the tumour from her tailbone.
Her doctors have confirmed that she was now home and thriving.