England: Baby born with heart outside body operated on; surviving, three weeks after birth

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Friday, December 15, 2017

On Tuesday, parents of baby Vanellope Hope Wilkins and representatives of Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, England reported to the press that Vanellope has survived three weeks after being born with her heart outside her chest, a rare birth defect known as ectopia cordis. She has been operated on three times, initially less than an hour after her birth on November 22, and will need further surgery; doctors believe she is the first baby in the United Kingdom to survive being born with the condition.

Vanellope's parents, Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins, live in Bulwell, Nottinghamshire; Vanellope is Naomi's third child. They learnt about the defect from a prenatal scan, but opted not to terminate the pregnancy. She was delivered prematurely by caesarian section by 50 people including four teams, placed in a sterile plastic bag and operated on 50 minutes later for the first of three times so far. Frances Bu'Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield, noted that unlike some cases of ectopia cordis, she does not have any heart defect or other displaced organs; at nine weeks, part of her stomach also protruded, but by sixteen weeks, only her heart was affected. Dr. Bu'Lock had originally told her parents she had only a "remote" chance of surviving.

Ectopia cordis is very rare and reportedly occurs in fewer than eight of every million babies born alive. It usually leads to a stillbirth when the pregnancy is not terminated, and with the likelihood of other associated congenital defects, plus the risk of infection, Vanellope's survival is very unusual. Dr. Martin Ward-Platt, a member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, stated "we wouldn't expect a case like this to happen in the UK more often than once every five to 10 years."

Her mother said they called her Vanellope after a character in the Disney film Wreck-It Ralph because she was born with "a glitch".


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