Baby born with heart outside body survives in UK

Vanellope Hope Wilkins was born last month

Vanellope Hope Wilkins was born last month Credit PA

She had her first surgery 50 minutes after birth and is now making good progress at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

Vanellope Hope was supposed to be born Christmas Eve, but a rare heart condition formed during pregnancy prompted doctors to deliver her on November 22.

"All the way through, it was, "The chances of survival are next to none".

"It's like we held our breath through it all for her", her mother said.

Dean told me: "We were advised to have a termination and that the chances of survival were next to none - no-one believed she was going to make it except us".

After the baby survived rounds of complicated surgery, Ms Findley describes Vanellope, who was named after a character in the Disney film Wreck It Ralph, as her "Christmas miracle".

Surgeons had created a mesh which protected the heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum.

Vanellope was originally due Christmas Eve but was delivered November 22 in order to reduce chances of infection.

"We know this is going to be a rollercoaster and have started to prepare ourselves for the hard times ahead, but we needed to give her a chance, and the team here have done that".

Experts as well as the consultant cardiologist have claimed to not know of a single case other than Vanellope's where the patient has survived ectopia cordis - which is a congenital malformation, even though previous estimates show that five to eight babies per million are born with this condition. The test also revealed that some of the baby's stomach was also growing outside the body.

Findlay said she's confident her daughter won't need that outfit she brought to the hospital.

Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins from Bulwell, Nottingham, first discovered the problem during a 9-week scan and were told their baby might die before birth.

"In the end I just said that termination is not an option for me, if it was to happen naturally then so be it".

"When she cried, we cried".

"We chose to fight to give our daughter the best chance of surviving".

Medics are increasingly optimistic Vanellope will beat the odds.

Vanellope will have to go through further surgery at a later stage. "The work that they have done is absolutely incredible", she said.

Ectopia cordis, literally translating to "out-of-place heart", is a heart abnormality that develops during the early stages of development in the womb. Because it's so uncommon, there are very few treatment options.

"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".

Only 50 known cases have reached the age of 12.

He said: "What they said is, when the baby is born she has got to be able to breathe in our oxygen".

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