Most parents are familiar with this exchange. When someone finds out you're pregnant, they ask, "Do you want it to be a boy or a girl?" You are of course supposed to answer with, "It doesn't matter, as long as it's healthy." It's true, since after all the struggles you face during pregnancy, you want to ensure the child you're bringing into this world will be as fit and ready to tackle life as any other. Their gender preference is a distant secondary concern, with their well-being coming in at the top of your worries for your new offspring. And some parents go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the health of their children.
Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins are new parents who know all too well about the importance of their child's health. That's because their firstborn was born with an incredibly rare, unbelievable condition. Their daughter, Vanellope, is luckily okay. But her life got off to an incredibly rough start.
The Nottingham couple's daughter was born without a breastbone. This left her heart exposed and unprotected. When she was born, her heart was actually outside of her body. Miraculously, she survived the birth, but doctors were going to have to act quick in order to save her life.
Vanellope was delivered three weeks early via cesarean section to increase her odds of survival. She was born with a heartbeat, and so doctors began scrambling to make sure it stayed beating. The hospital says it knows of no other cases in the UK where a baby with ectopia cordis survived.
Vanellope's parents learned of her condition when she was still in the womb. Her mother, Naomi, expressed the fear she felt when learning of this, saying, "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."
Tests were conducted, and despite her condition, there seemed to be no other abnormalities in her. Her father, David, added, "We were advised to have a termination and that the chances of survival were next to none. No one believed she was going to make it except us."
50 medical staff were present when she was born. Within an hour of her birth, she was already undergoing the first of three operations to put her heart back inside her body. The most recent one involved using her skin to cover the hole in her chest.
After all that, how is she? Consultant pediatric cardiologist Frances Bu'Lock said, "Before she was born things looked very bleak but now they are quite a lot better. Vanellope is doing really well and has proved very resilient."
Advancements in medical technology are truly amazing. And they keep on improving, giving hope that Vanellope will have even better odds as she grows up. Bu'Lock added, "In the future we may be able to put in some internal bony protection for her heart. Perhaps using 3D printing or something organic that would grow with her."
It's a modern miracle she was able to survive at all. However, she's not completely out of danger just yet. Glenfield Hospitalwhere she was born says she still has a long road ahead, with infection posing a major risk.
But Vanellope seems ready to fight on. She's already made it this far when no one thought she could. That's actually how she got her name. She was named after a famous, fictional fighter: the character from Disney's Wreck-It Ralph.
Vanellope's life didn't start in an ideal manner, but hopefully this will prove to only make her stronger. She's already endured more than most will ever go through. Besides her condition, she's lucky to have such loving parents and to have been brought into the world in such an amazing hospital. After all, not all hospitals are that great.