Against all odds, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was born prematurely by cesarean section with her heart growing out of her body.
Believed to be the first baby born in the UK to survive with such a rare condition, she is truly the hope of Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire.
Vanellope’s condition, Ectopia Cordis, was discovered during a scan when Naomi was nine weeks pregnant. The scans showed that her heart and part of her stomach were growing on the outside.
The doctors suggested termination to her parents, putting her chances of survival at “next to zero”.
Mr. Wilkins, who works as a builder, said: “We were told that our best bet was to terminate and my whole world just fell to bits.”
Ms. Findley, a mother-of-two, said: “In the end, I just said that termination is not an option for me. If it was to happen naturally then so be it.”
In the later weeks, detailed scans showed that apart from her heart being in the wrong place, Vanellope appeared normal. To give their daughter a fighting chance, the couple took a special blood test to check for chromosomal problems.
Mr. Wilkins said: “When the results of that test came back the as low risk of any abnormalities, we jumped up and down in the living room and cried. At that point, we decided to fight to give our daughter the best chance of surviving.”
The miracle child defied eight-in-a-million odds and was born on November 22 at 9:50 am at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.
The doctors said that the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial.
Mr. Wilkins, 43, said: “Both Naomi and I were holding our breath waiting for her to take her first breath; we didn’t dare breathe until she took her first breath.
“When she cried, we cried. I felt hopeless and just held onto Naomi and was staring into her eyes praying that it was all going to be ok.”
Within an hour of being born, a team of 50 healthcare professionals consisting of doctors, nurses and various hospital staff rushed to carry out the first of three operations of Vanellope. The operations will put her heart inside her body.
The complicated procedure will insert special tubes into the umbilical cord of the baby to provide fluids and medication to support her heart. Then, her chest will be opened to create more space for her heart to fit in.
In the second week, the second operation started. The procedure was similar to the first. It created even more space for the heart to fit back in.Normally, there is an indent on the left lung which creates space for the heart – but Vanellope did not have this.
Over a period of two weeks, the heart made its way back into the chest, naturally.
The staff geared up for the final operation. It involved cutting a portion of skin from under her arms and moving it to join the middle of her body.
Vanellope did not have ribs and a sternum to protect her heart, so the doctors created a mesh for support and protection. Her organs will be fighting for space inside her chest that’s why she is still attached to a ventilation machine.
Mr. Wilkins said: “The moment she was born I realized that we had made the right decision. We know this is going to be a rollercoaster and have started to prepare ourselves for the difficult times ahead, but we needed to give her a chance, and the team here have done that.”
The couple named her Vanellope after a Disney Princess from the movie, Wreck-It Ralph. The character’s stubbornness inspired them.
Vanellope’s parents are now hoping to have her home for Christmas.
In an interview, her mother Naomi said: “I want her there when we open presents around our Christmas tree. A huge part of the family will be missing if she’s not with us.”
Her partner, Dean Wilkins, said: “She is absolutely gorgeous and I am incredibly proud of her. All I want is to snuggle up with her and the boys on the sofa this Christmas.”
Vanellope is currently recovering from consecutive surgeries that put her exposed heart inside her body. The doctors said that she is doing well and has a chance at a future.
We at FeedFond will keep you readers updated on Vanellope.
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