In utero spinal surgery proves successful for toddler

May 17, 2013 4:54:37 PM PDT
Two years ago, a Dallas couple came to Houston when they learned their baby would be born with spina bifida. Houston surgeons operated on the baby before she was born. And it worked.

The little girl is now a toddler, and has just had her first reunion with the fetal surgeon who operated on her.

When Colette and Ivan Hagler saw their baby for the first time, they had no idea whether she would ever walk. She was born with spina bifida.

"I think she's a miracle baby," Colette said.

Faith had undergone a five-hour fetal surgery. Surgeons pulled Faith halfway out of the womb to repair her spine.

"When I think back, it was a lot that we went through. But it was all worth it," Colette said.

It worked. At almost 2, Faith can now walk and run. And she's been able to avoid a brain shunt, which is often needed by babies with spina bifida. Studies show if the spine is repaired before birth, it helps prevent many of the disabilities. But the risk is high for premature labor. That didn't happen and Faith was born 2 months after fetal surgery on the Fourth of July.

"She has progressed beyond what we ever imagined. I mean, she's just a bundle of faith and a bundle of energy," Colette said.

"When you look at Faith and where she was at as a preemie to where she is at now, and her walking around, that is nothing but God," Ivan said.

What's amazing is that no one year years ago would have dreamed that this little girl would be walking around, just a normal kid.

It was the first time fetal surgeon Dr. KuoJen Tsao had seen Faith since she left the hospital.

"She's great. You could never imagine she had such a devastating problem as a baby. We're very happy the way things have turned out for them," Dr. Tsao said.

The Texas Fetal Center at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital has performed more than 100 fetal surgeries in the past couple of years.
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