It was the news that no expectant parent wants to hear: “Your baby has a serious medical condition.” Luckily, for one family from Tyler, Texas, they soon learned that doctors at the Fetal Care Center Dallas were ready with help and hope for their unborn baby.
Spina Bifida Diagnosis
Alexandrea Campos was 15 weeks pregnant when she began having unexplained pain. Worried about the health of the baby she was expecting, Alexandrea saw her doctor. A number of tests were performed to understand what could be going on with her unborn child.
That’s when Alexandrea heard the news: The baby girl she was pregnant with had a condition called spina bifida, which occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly in the mother’s womb.
Babies born with spina bifida can have mild or severe issues, depending on the type of defect, its size, location and other factors. What Alexandrea learned was that spina bifida might cause her daughter to be unable to walk, have bone or joint deformities, be unable to control her bowels, and possibly experience neurological issues, among other things.
Another effect of spina bifida can be hydrocephalus, a condition in which excess fluid builds up within the brain, causing damage or death if left untreated. Tests confirmed that Alexandrea’s unborn child was already battling hydrocephalus.
“You never really think it could happen to you, until it does,” Alexandrea said, “and then it’s life-changing.”
Alexandrea and the baby’s father, Dakota Martinez, decided to take action.
Fetal Care Center Dallas
Alexandrea and Dakota were referred to the experts at the Fetal Care Center in Dallas, one of only a handful of places in the U.S. that could provide their baby with the comprehensive, sophisticated care she would need.
With pioneering diagnostics and surgical treatments, the physicians in the Fetal Care Center are able to save lives and minimize the impact of birth defects. Few centers in the world are able to do the kind of pre-natal evaluation that Fetal Care Center Dallas does, which specializes solely in fetal and neonatal surgery.
Timothy Crombleholme, M.D., medical director of the Fetal Care Center, met with the family. Dr. Crombleholme is widely recognized for his surgical skill, and for being one of only a handful of surgeons nationwide qualified to perform open fetal surgery.
Additionally, he literally wrote the book on caring for complex diagnoses for patients still in the womb. Alongside two other physicians, Dr. Crombleholme co-wrote the well-known textbook for the care of the world’s smallest patients, “Fetology: Diagnosis and Management of the Fetal Patient, 1st and 2nd editions,” widely considered the gold standard textbook in the field.
Dr. Crombleholme explained to the family the process of operating on their baby while she was still in utero, and the benefits that could be achieved with a successful spina bifida fetal surgery.
“The team at the Fetal Care Center at Medical City Children’s Hospital is focused on providing comprehensive care for children before and after birth and ensuring the best outcomes possible for our mothers and babies,” he said.
“Open fetal surgery to repair spina bifida is a multi-disciplinary procedure that can greatly improve babies’ outcomes by significantly reducing the need for a medical device to relieve pressure on the brain caused by fluid accumulation.”
The family agreed to undergo spina bifida fetal surgery in hopes of giving their unborn daughter the best chance to avoid complications once she was born, as well as throughout her lifetime.
Alexandrea was both relieved and astounded. She said, “I had never even heard of that fetal surgery until finding out her diagnosis. Then, they gave us that option.”
Spina Bifida Fetal Surgery
Alexandrea and Dakota discussed spina bifida surgery on a Tuesday and, two days later, on October 18, 2018, Alexandrea was in the operating room at Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas.
There, Dr. Crombleholme would repair her daughter’s spinal defect before she was even born, decreasing the chance that the tiny human would have debilitating physical and mental issues.
Great care was taken during the very delicate operation to help ensure the best outcome for both mother and child. Alexandrea was given anesthesia, which also anesthetized her unborn baby. Then, Dr. Crombleholme and his team made a careful incision into Alexandrea’s abdomen.
The uterus was opened with a special device that controls bleeding, and the baby’s spinal cord was repaired through a very small incision. After the repair was made, the incisions in Alexandrea and her baby were carefully closed in multiple layers, taking care to preserve the ability of the mother’s womb to continue developing the baby until it was time for the birth.
Though Dr. Crombleholme had performed dozens of these procedures at other hospitals across the country, Alexandrea Campos and her unborn daughter’s spina bifida surgery marked the Dallas hospital’s second open fetal procedure.
Caring for Alexandrea and her baby was a multi-disciplinary team of specialists at Medical City, including a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, a pediatric neurosurgeon and specialized, highly trained fetal nurses.
Alexandrea healed from the surgery and then, weeks later, under the careful guidance of Dr. Crombleholme and his team, delivered her baby via C-section.
“When I first heard her cry, it was a lot of relief. She cried right away and that made me happy,” Alexandrea said.
“Miracle from God”
It didn’t take Alexandrea and Dakota long to know what they would name their daughter. “Amari,” meaning “miracle from God,” was the name they decided on. Amari had fought the odds already and, with her parents finding one of the few centers in the U.S. that could help her, she was already winning.
“We just had to stay positive and keep our faith,” Dakota said.
Today, that miracle is an active little girl who adores her parents and two older brothers. The relief the family feels is palpable, and is something for which they thank God every day.
“It happened, and everything went good and she’s perfect,” Alexandrea said as she gazed at her little girl.
The Fetal Care Center in Dallas is one of only a few centers worldwide with the capability to perform the full range of fetal interventions. If you have a question or wish to make an appointment, please call 972-566-5600 for urgent or same-day appointments. We are here for you and your family.