When Margaret Boemer was 16 months pregnant with Lynlee, she went in for a routine ultrasound and found out that there was something wrong with her baby daughter.
“They saw something on the scan, and the doctor came in and told us that there was something seriously wrong with our baby and that she had a sacrococcygeal teratoma,” she told CNN. “And it was very shocking and scary because we didn’t know what that long word meant or what diagnosis that would bring.”
“To think that I might lose [the baby] was very hard”
This wasn’t the first time Boemer received bad news about her pregnancy. She had initially been pregnant with twins but lost one baby before the second trimester.
“It was a big shock and we were scared,” Boemer told CBS News. “I had just suffered a miscarriage the prior year. To think that I might lose another baby was very hard.”
What is sacrococcygeal teratoma (SCT)?
Sacrococcygeal teratoma, according to the University of California, San Francisco, is a tumour found in newborns found at the base of the tailbone. It occurs in 1 out of every 35,000 births and is more common in female than in male babies. Though this tumour can grow very large, it’s not usually cancerous.
“Some of these tumours can be very well-tolerated, so the fetus has it and can get born with it and we can take it out after the baby’s born,” Dr. Darrell Cass of Texas Children’s Fetal Center said. “But about half of the time, they cause problems for the fetus and it’s usually causing problems because of a blood flow problem.”
Cass explained that the tumour and the baby end up competing for blood flow, and sometimes the tumour “wins”, and the baby dies. As Boemer’s baby had a large tumour that was cutting off her blood supply and causing her heart to shut down, doctors had to intervene.
Some doctors told her that she should terminate the pregnancy, but Dr. Cass told Boemer that they could perform fetal surgery on Lynlee.
“It was an easy decision for us. We wanted to give her life”
This meant that they would incise the uterus, take out the baby, perform surgery, then put the baby back so that it could grow until full-term. Dr. Cass had only performed the surgery once before. It was a dangerous procedure for both the mother and the baby, but Boemer knew what to do. “It was an easy decision for us,” she said. “We wanted to give her life.”
When Cass performed the surgery on Boemer, she was 23 weeks and 5 days pregnant, and the tumour was nearly as large as Lynlee. The operation lasted 5 hours. Most of the time was spent carefully opening the uterus so that it could still accommodate Lynlee after the procedure. The actual removal of the tumour took only 20 minutes. The doctors also had to restart her heart after it stopped and perform a blood transfusion before placing Lynlee back in the womb.
Image source: YouTube / ITV News
Lynlee, the Boemers’ third child, was born for the second time 12 weeks later via c-section. She weighed 5 pounds and 5 ounces, and though she had to have more surgery to remove bits of tissue the surgeon wasn’t able to reach, she was able to recover.
“She’s doing great now,” Boemer said. “We’re practising rolling over.”
*This article is from our archives.
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