To address his spina bifida, surgery was performed on Baby Royer while he was still in the womb. His story gives hope to the families of babies in the womb that suffer from that birth defect.
Royer was born in January after a surgery was completed in the womb in September. His future looks good.
The New York Times reported that Royer was born with a “feisty spirit,” kicking and screaming. His parents, Lexi and Joshuwa Royer, were told by doctors that these were great signs for a child with spina bifida.
“It was so worth it,” Lexi Royer told the newspaper. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. That’s for sure.”
The report also said:
He arrived pink and screaming on Friday at 5:35 a.m., two days before his official due date, weighing 8 pounds 8 ounces, and almost 20 inches long.
Within moments of his birth at Texas Children’s Hospital, he did what his parents and doctors had eagerly hoped to see: He moved his legs and feet, a sign that the operation may have prevented damage to the spinal nerves needed for walking.
Indeed, placed on his belly, he managed to pull a knee underneath himself and push off, as if he intended to crawl away from the nurses who were trying to swaddle him.
The surgeon in chief at the hospital, Dr. Larry Hollier, said he was very pleased with how baby Royer looked at birth.
“I’ve never seen such a big defect successfully repaired, with the child moving his feet at birth,” Hollier said. “It’s unbelievable. If this is the cost of getting that closed — just having to do a little skin operation — it’s fantastic.”
In 2018, Lexi Royer told The New York Times that doctors tried to pressure her to have an abortion when her unborn son was diagnosed with spina bifida. Lexi Royer refused, and instead she and her husband started researching and found doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital that were willing to try to remedy baby Royer’s situation.
That September, the unborn boy and his mother had experimental fetal surgery while the child was still in the womb. The doctors made small cuts in his mother’s uterus, using a camera and surgical tools to fix the gap in his spine.
According to Dr. Michael Belfort, a surgeon at Baylor in Houston, Texas, fetal surgery helps decrease the damage to the spine while the baby is still in the womb. He said that the amniotic fluid eats away at the nerve tissue in the gap of the spine, which makes it important to close the gap before birth.
Belfort said they typically perform the surgery 24 weeks into the pregnancy, because if something goes wrong, there is a better chance the baby will survive outside the womb.
The technique has only recently been implemented, but doctors have been performing in-utero surgery for spina bifida and other ailments for years in the United States, according to Life News. The National Institute of Health’s Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS) discovered that closing the spinal defect in utero limited the need for shunts after birth and increased the child’s chances of walking by themselves. Doctors also speculate that the procedure might reduce the odds of learning disabilities as well.
In 2014, LifeNews reported British doctors performed the first in-utero surgery on an unborn baby girl who also had spina bifida. The surgery went well, and in December 2016, 14-month-old Frankie was overcoming her disability and learning to walk, The Express reports.
Recently, at least 13 hospitals in the U.S. have conducted fetal surgery on unborn babies that have spina bifida.
Researchers estimate that 64 percent of unborn children who are diagnosed with spina bifida are eliminated by abortion. Now there is reason to have hope for unborn babies with the ailment.
(The LifeNews article has the incorrect statistic. 64% of unborn children who are diagnosed with spina bifida are aborted, not 68.)
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