A baby was born with her heart outside her chest -- but has survived thanks to 3 risky operations by 50 doctors

University Hospitals of Leicester/NHS TrustBaby Vanellope Hope Wilkins after her surgery.
  • A baby born with her heart outside her chest has survived in a “miracle.”
  • Vanellope Hope Wilkins was given less than a 10% chance of survival.
  • Fifty doctors operated on her right after her birth.
  • She is believed to be the first baby in Britain with this condition to survive.
  • This report contains graphic images.

A baby born with her heart outside her chest has survived, thanks to 50 doctors who operated on her immediately after her birth.

Vanellope Hope Wilkins was born on November 22 without a breastbone, the long bone to which the ribs are attached.

She has ectopia cordis, a rare condition in which the heart is “abnormally located either partially or totally outside of the chest,” according to Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, England, where Vanellope was born and where she is being treated.

Vanellope Hope Wilkins bornGlenfield Hospital/University Hospitals of Leicester/NHS TrustVanellope was born with her heart located outside her chest.

Babies born with this condition have a survival rate of less than 10% due to the risks of infections and other side effects, the hospital added. Doctors had advised Vanellope’s mother to have an abortion.

Vanellope is the first baby to have survived with this condition in the UK, according to multiple media outlets.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother, said pre-natal scans and tests showed her daughter’s heart and parts of her stomach growing outside her body.

Vanellope’s father, Dean Wilkins, told the BBC: “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.”

Vanellope hope wilkins and mumGlenfield Hospital/University Hospitals of Leicester/NHS TrustVanellope was wrapped in a plastic bag immediately after her birth. Here she is with her mother, Naomi Findlay, on the right.

Immediately after Vanellope was born, she was “immediately placed in a sterile plastic bag” to keep her organs sterile and tissues moist.

Fifty minutes later, Vanellope was deemed stable enough to undergo a series of surgeries with 50 anaesthetists, heart surgeons, and paediatricians, who put her heart most of the way back inside her chest.

After around three hours of operations, Vanellope was taken to the hospital’s intensive care unit, where she will stay for several weeks, “while she hopefully gets strong enough, and big enough, for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered in her own skin,” anaesthetist Dr Nick Moore said.

Vanellope Hope Wilkins during surgeryGlenfield Hospital/University Hospitals of Leicester/NHS TrustDoctors operating on Vanellope.

Findlay said: “I had 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.

“I’m now confident she won’t wear it so I’m going to donate it to the hospital.”

Wilkins told the BBC: “She defying everything – it’s beyond a miracle.”

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