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Kicking the Spina Bifida Odds

Meet Uriah: The first baby in North Texas to undergo surgery before he was born.

A quick online search of spina bifida — one of the most common birth defects affecting 1,500 to 2,000 American babies a year — generates phrases such as “not curable” and “damage to the spinal cord and nerves can’t be reversed.” But as Sarah Prowell and Sean Kirby watch their newborn, Uriah, kick his legs between naps, they are hopeful for his future.

At 18 weeks pregnant, Uriah’s parents learned that he had the debilitating neural tube defect. In its most severe form, babies with spina bifida are born with an opening in their backs that allows part of the spinal cord and nerves to protrude. Without medical intervention, Uriah faced a list of potentially serious disabilities, including paralysis, lifelong bladder issues and infections.

“We were both pretty distraught at first and worried about his life — the road ahead of him,” Kirby said.

Sarah’s care team in Terrell referred her to Dr. Kevin Magee, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Fetal Care Center Dallas. Dr. Magee advised that Uriah’s best option was to have spine surgery while still inside the womb. Prior to birth, early correction of these problems can increase the odds of a healthy baby. Dr. Magee consulted with his partner, Timothy Crombleholme, MD, director of the Fetal Care Center at Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas and one of only a handful of surgeons nationwide qualified to perform open fetal surgery.

Dr. Crombleholme and a team of multidisciplinary specialists successfully performed complex open fetal surgery on Uriah last June — the first time such a procedure was performed in North Texas.

“Performing open fetal surgery is a team effort among many exceptionally skilled clinical experts,” Dr. Crombleholme said. “Our comprehensive care team will help care for Uriah as he grows up, building on the fetal repair and supporting a greatly improved quality of life for him.”

Uriah’s squirming and leg kicking signals early signs of surgical success.

“Uriah is doing so well; better than we thought he’d be,” Sarah said. “I think he’ll be very determined. I think he will impress us and everyone else, like he has so far.”

Medical City Healthcare offers labor and delivery services at nine locations throughout North Texas. Combining clinical excellence with highly personalized settings, Medical City hospitals feature spacious private rooms, choice of delivery methods, expert childbirth classes, celebratory gourmet meals and so much more — all backed by doctors, nurses and staff who are ready to help you create the memory of a lifetime. Learn more at


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