Newborn with heart outside body survives surgeries

Vanellope Hope post surgery

A baby born with her heart outside her body has survived after surgery at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

She has had three operations to place her heart back in her chest.

United Kingdom doctors have successfully carried out surgery to save a baby girl born with her heart outside her body, allowing her heart to move back into her chest in what is reportedly a United Kingdom first.

Naomi told me: "It was a real shock when the ultrasound showed that her heart was outside her chest and scary because we didn't know what would happen".

Doctors say babies like Audrina and Vanellope have challenges ahead but at least now, thanks to advances in modern medicine, they both have a chance at a future.

Vanellope Hope Wilkins born
Vanellope was born with her heart located outside her chest. Glenfield Hospital University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust

Most babies born with this condition do not survive although there have been some cases in which surgery has been successful.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised "termination" was the only option, they said. She was born at Texas Children's Hospital in November 2012. "The relief fell out of me", said her mother.

Vanellope Hope Wilkins looks like any other almost-one-month-old baby would: delightfully soft to touch, blushing pink in skin colour and sweetly squinting through her blue newborn eyes.

Vanellope is being treated in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. Infection poses a severe risk to babies with this condition.

"This is only the second case in 30 years that I've seen this particular condition, it's extremely rare", she said. "I genuinely didn't think my baby would survive, but the staff at Glenfield have been fantastic". After the birth, she said, "I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there there was I, about to give up".

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