When this mother learnt that the peculiar bubble blowing out of her 17-week-old fetus’s mouth was actually a rare and fatal tumor, she thought, “there has to be a way to save her.” So, despite doctors’ advice to abort the baby, she underwent the world’s first-of-its-kind utero surgery to remove the peach-sized tumor.
Leyna Gonzalez from Miami, United States, is a healthy “little miracle child.” Years ago, her mother, Tammy Gonzalez, went through an ordeal to keep Leyna, meaning “little angel,” alive. When Leyna was in her mother’s womb, at 17 weeks of gestation, doctors discovered something strange during an ultrasound scan—they saw a “bubble” blowing from the unborn baby’s mouth.
“Is that on me or the baby?” asked Gonzalez, as she stared at the ultrasound monitor, according to ABC News.
The doctors later confirmed the bubble was actually teratoma, a rare and potentially fatal oral tumor, developing in 1 in every 100,000 pregnancies. “They told me that type of tumor can grow so fast,” said Gonzalez.
“I was like, ‘there has to be a way to save her,’” she told the Miami Herald.
Gonzalez’s gynecologist, Jason James, gave her two options: terminating the pregnancy, as the baby could have little chance of survival after birth; or carry the baby and risk a miscarriage. Gonzalez refused to abort the baby. She started researching for ways to save the baby.
“It’s the most horrible feeling you could ever image; physically, emotionally, mentally,” said Gonzalez.
“I asked my gynecologist if there’s another way, if somebody could do surgery on her while she’s inside,” she said.
She was then referred to Dr. Ruben Quintero, director of the Fetal Therapy Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Two weeks later, in May 2010, Dr. Quintero and his team proceeded with the utero surgery using an endoscope—a medical procedure that had never been carried out before.
They inserted a tiny camera and surgical tools through a quarter-inch incision in Gonzalez’s abdomen and into the amniotic sac. With the visual images provided by the camera and an ultrasound, surgeons were able to gauge where the peach-sized tumor was before cutting it off from the fetus’s mouth, using a laser beam.
The whole procedure “felt like a popping balloon.”
“It was like this huge weight had been lifted off. It just floated away and I could see her face,” said Gonzalez, who was awake and under local anesthetic during the surgery.
Five months later, on Oct. 1, 2010, Leyna was born, weighing 8 pounds, 1 ounce (approx. 4 kg). The only remnant of her surgery is “a tiny scar on the roof of her mouth.”
“They are her saviors,” a teary Gonzalez thanked the doctors. “She wouldn’t be here without them.”