14 December 2017

First ectopia cordis baby survives surgery

She endured three surgeries to move her heart into her chest.


At only three-weeks-old Vanellope Hope Hopkins became the first baby in the UK to survive an extremely rare heart condition called ectopia cordis.

The baby girl was born prematurely on 22 November with the life-threatening condition where her heart and stomach were growing externally, according to The Guardian.

Within an hour of her birth she underwent her first surgery. She endured three surgeries to move her heart into her chest.

It was an extremely risky procedure as numerous experts, including a cardiologist, said that they were unaware of other cases in which an infant has survived this condition.

“I had seen one in fetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended,” said cardiologist, Frances Bu Lock.

“I did a quick Google search, as everyone does, and then more of a literature search but that didn’t inform me an awful lot because there’s not much to go on. And the cases are all very different.”

Vanellope’s parents, Naomi Findlay (31) and Dean Wilkins (43) from Nottinghamshire were distraught when they were informed of her chances of survival.

“I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems,” said Findlay.

Fortunately, a team of 50 staff members were able to create an artificial rib cage and sternum and moved their daughter’s heart into her chest.

Findlay had prepared herself for Vanellope’s passing, according to Newsweek.

“I’d 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," Findlay said in a press release issued by the hospital. "I’m now confident she won’t wear it so I’m going to donate it to the hospital. I genuinely didn’t think my baby would survive.”

The hospital told BBC that Vanellope is doing well and has proved very resilient. It added that she still has a long road ahead, with infection being the greatest risk.

Her parents are overjoyed and believe that she’s a real fighter.

They aptly named their daughter after a character from the film Wreck-It Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope – and my mum and dad, because even they as grandparents, thought they’d never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Sources: The Guardian, Time, BBC, Newsweek