Peter Baklinski


In utero surgery saves 20-week unborn baby with cyst the size of an orange

Peter Baklinski

MEQUON, Wisconsin, 6 March, 2013 ( – Most unborn babies who experience a surgeon’s tools at 20 weeks gestation in their mothers' wombs are sadly moments away from termination. But not so for Elijah Leffingwell.

The baby’s first ultrasound revealed a macro-cyst the size of an orange in the unborn baby’s chest, right next to his tiny heart. Doctors gave the little guy a 50 percent chance of survival, reported Fox6Now.

“The mass in the chest is huge and it’s just totally crushing the heart and putting the baby into heart failure,” recounted fetal surgeon Dr. Scott Adzick, who would lead the team that performed the complex surgery on Elijah.

The high-risk operation involved partly taking the unborn baby out of his mother’s womb, opening the baby’s chest, removing the cyst, then replacing the baby. 

The procedure, which took place at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was going well when the baby’s heart, then the size of a dime, suddenly stopped beating.

Dr. Adzick massaged the baby’s heart between his fingers, managing to bring Elijah back. 

After the cyst was removed, the little trooper was tucked back inside his mother’s womb to await his real birthday. He was born prematurely two months later. 

Elijah spent 9 days in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on life-support undergoing further surgeries. After nine weeks of medical support, Elijah was finally able to go home with his parents. 

Elijah’s mother April has nothing but gratitude for how her son was helped. 

“After going through his journey, now I feel more that I am blessed to be chosen to go through this situation because I can teach other people and help other families and you know, share his story,” she said. 

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Now at home, Elijah must be fed through a gastrostomy tube that is inserted into his stomach. He never cries when his parents change the bandages around his tube. 

At 14 weeks old, parents say that Elijah is doing as well as they could hope. The young boy will forever have a massive scar half way around his body, from the center of his back to the front of his belly, testimony to the medical triumph that saved his life.

People from every walk of life who treasure the gift of life, especially new life in a mother’s womb, love Elijah’s story, since it shows that a ‘fetus’ in the womb is simply a small ‘human being’ who needs care, compassion, and assistance, just like everybody else does. 

See Fox6Now’s report with video that includes live footage of Elijah’s surgery. 

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