You may have heard the amazing story of LynLee Hope and how she was born twice. This little girl, while in utero, had a tumour growing out of her tail bone that would have spelt the end of her life. Carrying out a miraculous operation, surgeons removed her from her mother’s womb, operated on the tumour, and placed her back in.
This is a story about the wonders of science, the sheer will of a child to live on, and the abiding love of parents that would not give up on their baby.
But this is also a story of pride for us Nigerians. Because the co-surgeon in that operating theatre that day is a Yoruba man. Oluyinka O. Olutoyeis now resident and works in the US, but he is an OAU graduate. He is the Co-Director of the Texas Children’s Fetal Centre, but he is a true son of the soil; our Nigerian soil. Our boy done good.
Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, Dr. Darrell Cass, and That Miraculous Operation
Margaret Boemer went for a routine ultrasound while pregnant with her third child when it was discovered that the baby had a growth. Sacrococcygeal teratoma is a tumour that develops before birth and grows from a baby’s coccyx, the tailbone.
It was a shock at 16 weeks to learn of her daughter’s rare birth defect. It was a double tragedy as LynLee had actually started off as a set of twins, with her sibling passing in the second trimester.
Although other doctors had advised her to terminate the pregnancy, the mother would not waver. She stayed positive until Dr. Darrell Cass and his team suggested another possibility: foetal surgery. This option, though, would not be an easy road. Even worse, her baby’s chances of survival would be grim.
“LynLee didn’t have much of a chance,” Boemer said. “At 23 weeks, the tumour was shutting her heart down and causing her to go into cardiac failure, so it was a choice of allowing the tumour to take over her body or giving her a chance at life. It was an easy decision for us: We wanted to give her life.”
Baby Born Twice
And so it was that when Margaret Boemer was 23 weeks and 5 days pregnant, Dr. Cass and Dr. Olutoye performed the emergency foetal surgery. By this time, the tumour was nearly larger than the fetus.
Cass and Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, his partner surgeon, operated for about five hours. “The part on the fetus we do very, very quickly,” said Cass. “It’s only 20 minutes or so on the actual fetus.” Most of the time is spent opening the uterus and sealing it back up as near-perfect as possible.
During the surgery, LynLee’s heart slowed down to an incredibly low rate. “It basically stopped,” said Cass, but the surgeons continued working. The surgical team removed the bulk of the tumour. When they finished their operation, the surgeons placed LynLee back inside the womb and sewed her mother’s uterus shut.
Despite being in incredible pain for the remainder of the pregnancy, Boemer stayed on bed rest for an unbelievable 12 weeks more and had LynLee at full term. This little extra help gave the little fighter as much chance of survival as possible.
All the signs suggest that she is now a healthy little infant and will go on to live long, even after being the baby born twice. A triumph indeed!
Sources: CNN and The Mirror
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