Baby survives after being born with heart outside her body

A baby born with her heart outside her body has survived surgery to insert it back into her chest.Vanellope Ho...

Posted: Dec 13, 2017 2:42 PM
Updated: Dec 13, 2017 2:42 PM

A baby born with her heart outside her body has survived surgery to insert it back into her chest.

Vanellope Hope Wilkins, now three weeks old, was delivered by a team of 50 medical professionals at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, UK, on November 22.

Born with ectopia cordis, a rare congenital condition causing her heart to grow outside her body, the baby girl underwent three intensive surgeries to put her heart inside her chest. She is now on the road to recovery.

"I had prepared myself for the worst; that was my way of dealing with it. I had brought an outfit to hospital that she could wear if she died," said Naomi Findlay, Vanellope's mother, in a statement on Tuesday. "I genuinely didn't think my baby would survive, but the staff at Glenfield have been amazing."

"I deal with babies with heart problems all the time, some of them very complicated," said Dr. Frances Bu'Lock, consultant in pediatric cardiology at Glenfield Hospital.

"This is only the second case in 30 years that I've seen this particular condition, it's extremely rare," said Bu'Lock.

Odds stacked against them

An initial ultrasound scan at nine weeks had alerted Vanellope's parents, Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins, that their baby's heart and part of her stomach had begun to grow outside of her body.

Bu'Lock did Naomi's ultrasound at 16 weeks, and found that while Vanellope's bowel had moved back to the correct position, her heart was still out of place.

A blood test confirmed that the risk of other chromosomal abnormalities was low, at which point Naomi and Dean chose to fight for their daughter's life.

Bu'Lock did not expect the baby to survive, she said. "There were so many difficulties -- she might have other body organ problems. The chances against her surviving at that stage was huge."

In most cases, the malformation is detected in the womb and the pregnancy is terminated or results in a stillbirth. A successful delivery also brings a very high risk of infection or associated defects, according to the hospital.

Naomi and Dean received counseling throughout the process.

Surgeons deliver miracle

Four teams of doctors at Glenfield -- which is part of the UK's National Health Service (NHS) -- were scheduled to deliver the baby on November 22 by caesarean section to reduce the risk of infection as well as the risk of injuring the infant heart.

After birth, Vanellope was placed in a sterile plastic bag to reduce infection risk to her heart and keep exposed tissues moist.

"Vanellope was born in good condition. She cried at birth and coped well with the early stabilization and her heart continued to beat effectively," said Glenfield Consultant Neonatologist Jonathan Cusack.

""At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theater where she had been born to the waiting anesthetists, congenital heart disease and pediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest," he said.

While the defect in Vanellope's chest was small, the surgeons were concerned about repositioning the heart correctly to ensure it was properly attached to the veins and arteries.

"Now she's out, she's had three surgeries and her heart is covered -- I think her chances are a lot better," said Bu'Lock, who called the surgery "challenging (rather) than complicated."

"Cases of ectopia cordis are extremely rare but Vanellope's situation is even more unusual," said Dr. Martin Ward-Platt of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who was not involved in the procedure. "Usually babies like Vanellope are born with a number of other complications of the heart or other organs, but from the media reports it seems this could be the only abnormality -- which makes it even more rare."

Heart out of place

Ectopia cordis, literally translating to "out-of-place heart," is a heart abnormality that develops during the early stages of development in the womb.

The condition causes the heart to form either partially or wholly outside the chest cavity, generally on the neck, chest, abdomen or cervix.

It is generally accompanied by congenital heart disease and other associated defects, leaving those affected by it with a very low chance of survival.

The condition is estimated to affect just under eight babies per million live births, according to the hospital, with less than a 10% chance of survival.

"To put this in context, we wouldn't expect a case like this to happen in the UK more often than once every five to 10 years," said Ward-Platt.

New father Dean Wilkins said in a statement: "The moment she was born I realized that we had made the right decision. People always knock the NHS, but all we have seen from the team at Glenfield is kindness and a desire to keep Naomi and Vanellope safe and I can't begin to thank them for what they have done for my girls."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 735999

Reported Deaths: 13486
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1007151752
Lake54249977
Allen40946680
St. Joseph36335553
Hamilton35829408
Elkhart28844443
Tippecanoe22475219
Vanderburgh22367397
Porter18946311
Johnson18067381
Hendricks17317315
Clark13036192
Madison12762339
Vigo12501249
LaPorte12086215
Monroe11957172
Delaware10755187
Howard10001218
Kosciusko9466117
Hancock8373142
Bartholomew8098156
Warrick7799155
Floyd7690178
Grant7098174
Wayne7072199
Boone6745101
Morgan6611140
Dubois6166117
Marshall6111112
Cass5876105
Dearborn583178
Henry5785105
Noble565984
Jackson503773
Shelby494396
Lawrence4602120
Gibson437192
Harrison436672
DeKalb430585
Clinton428453
Montgomery425889
Whitley398739
Huntington394480
Steuben391057
Miami383968
Knox372890
Jasper372649
Putnam363760
Wabash355380
Adams342755
Ripley340770
Jefferson331881
White317754
Daviess298399
Wells292081
Decatur285992
Fayette282162
Greene280585
Posey272034
LaGrange268970
Scott267554
Clay261347
Washington242132
Randolph242081
Spencer232931
Jennings230949
Starke219354
Fountain213946
Sullivan212242
Owen203356
Jay197830
Fulton196040
Carroll190420
Orange184754
Perry184637
Rush174025
Vermillion170044
Franklin168535
Tipton163445
Parke146716
Pike135634
Blackford135132
Pulaski117445
Newton108934
Brown102641
Crawford101415
Benton99014
Martin89515
Warren82615
Switzerland7948
Union71410
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1091623

Reported Deaths: 19528
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1268061406
Cuyahoga1132982134
Hamilton804211211
Montgomery518231015
Summit47606955
Lucas42618792
Butler38548585
Stark32661909
Lorain25199486
Warren24390300
Mahoning21795588
Lake20846371
Clermont19880240
Delaware18608133
Licking16488212
Fairfield16327200
Trumbull16196468
Medina15379266
Greene15143244
Clark14096299
Wood13168189
Portage12966206
Allen11740232
Richland11433199
Miami10713220
Wayne8923214
Columbiana8881229
Muskingum8831133
Pickaway8596121
Marion8561136
Tuscarawas8509245
Erie7958155
Hancock6944128
Ashtabula6904172
Ross6876156
Geauga6741148
Scioto6444102
Belmont5978168
Union575448
Lawrence5590102
Jefferson5583151
Huron5462120
Sandusky5380122
Darke5374126
Seneca5311122
Washington5228109
Athens520858
Auglaize494986
Mercer481585
Shelby470293
Knox4513110
Madison439363
Putnam4301101
Ashland426590
Fulton426469
Defiance424697
Crawford3993107
Brown397557
Logan383276
Preble381398
Clinton374163
Ottawa369081
Highland356862
Williams343475
Champaign335358
Guernsey317653
Jackson314152
Perry295950
Morrow287239
Fayette283550
Hardin271964
Henry270366
Coshocton266157
Holmes2625101
Van Wert244263
Adams240053
Pike238634
Gallia236749
Wyandot232155
Hocking216462
Carroll192448
Paulding174340
Meigs145540
Noble134137
Monroe132542
Harrison109637
Morgan108823
Vinton84915
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 74°
Angola
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 73°
Huntington
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 74°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 74°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 75°
A system will bring spotty showers and thunderstorms to the region Wednesday afternoon.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events