In 2016, a baby girl from Lewisville, Texas, was “born” twice after she was taken out of her mother’s womb for 20 minutes for life-saving surgery.
At 16 weeks pregnant, Margaret Hawkins Boemer discovered her daughter, Lynlee Hope, had a tumour on her spine.
The mass, known as a sacrococcygeal teratoma, was diverting blood from the fetus – raising the risk of fatal heart failure. It’s a rare kind of growth which experts say is found in 1 in every 35,000 births. It develops at the baby’s tailbone.
In little Lynlee’s case, the tumour is said to have grown so big that it was almost larger than the fetus. Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, along with his partner, Dr. Darrell Cass, had to work for five hours to remove it and end the operation successfully.
It was a life-saving operation, one in which surgeons had to be patient, meticulous, and display razor-sharp alertness. They had the task of removing a tumour from an unborn child who at the time was only a 23-week old unborn fetus, weighing just 1lb 3oz (0.53kg).
Mrs. Boemer had originally been expecting twins, but lost one of her babies before the second trimester. She was initially advised to terminate her pregnancy entirely before doctors at Texas Children’s Fetal Centre suggested the risky surgery.
The risk factor increased because the tumour and the unborn baby were almost the same size by the time the operation was performed. Lynlee was given a 50% chance of survival.
Doctor Darrell Cass of Texas Children’s Fetal Centre said the tumour had been so large that a “huge” incision was required to reach it, leaving the baby “hanging out in the air”.
Lynlee’s heart virtually stopped during the procedure but a heart specialist kept her alive while most of the tumour was removed, Dr. Cass added. The team then placed her back in her mother’s womb and sewed her uterus up.
Mrs. Boemer spent the next 12 weeks on bedrest, and Lynlee entered the world for the second time on June 6th of 2016. She was born via Caesarean at almost full term, weighing 5Ib and 5oz, and named after both of her grandmothers.
When Lynlee was eight days old, a further operation helped remove the rest of the tumour from her tailbone. And Dr. Cass said the baby girl was now home and thriving. “Baby Boemer is still an infant but is doing beautiful,” he confirmed.
Though Lynlee was safe, she still had a long way to go, but doctors were amazed by her progress. After undergoing the additional surgery, she spent 24 days in the NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital before she could make the journey to her family’s North Texas home.
In the months that followed, she had physical therapy, many doctor’s appointments, and a gamut of tests. Every three months, Lynlee travelled to Houston for further testing. Despite the ordeal, she proved to be simply ordinary. After that, Lynlee has met milestones and developed normally.