Surgeons from St. George's shown performing operations on baby in womb
Picture: St. George's Hospital
If you tuned into Gogglebox last week you may have seen the extraordinary scenes of doctors performing surgery on unborn babies inside the womb.
It was pretty amazing stuff, and all carried out at St Georgeâ€™s Hospital in Tooting.
In one episode, mum Becky was referred to St Georgeâ€™s after a scan at her local hospital revealed that, at 19 weeks into her pregnancy, her baby had developed an extremely rare lung tumour.
Because the tumour was growing rapidly, it was putting pressure on both the babyâ€™s heart and lungs causing it to go into heart failure.
At St Georgeâ€™s, the show features Professor Basky Thilaganathan and the team as they delicately laser a blood vessel which is feeding the tumour, in order to stop it growing and relieve pressure on the babyâ€™s heart and lungs.
As the team prepares to carry out the procedure, Professor Basky explains how small the babyâ€™s tumour is, â€œItâ€™s about the size of a Malteser and the blood vessel is less than the thickness of a matchstick,â€ he says.
Fortunately the surgery was successful and a baby girl, Annie, was born healthy.
Becky said, â€œAnnie is now a very happy, healthy almost six-month-old. Sheâ€™s loving starting to taste new foods and is always laughing, especially at her older brother who adores her, just like we all do.
â€œAnnieâ€™s CCAM [tumour] is taking up a small area of her lung but so far she has been asymptomatic and is being closely monitored. We are so blessed to have Annie and are so very grateful for the care, kindness and excellence that is Professor Basky and the team at St Georgeâ€™s Hospital, she wouldnâ€™t be here without them and we wouldnâ€™t be a family of four without her.â€
Becky and Richard with Annie and their older son
The three-part Channel 4 series, Baby Surgeons: Delivering Miracles, focuses on the hospitalâ€™s fetal medicine, neonatal and maternity units, with the last programme going out on Monday (10 May).
Each episode tells the story of three women who have rare and complex pregnancies.
As Professor Basky Thilaganathan, Clinical Director of the Fetal Medicine Unit, explains in the opening titles, â€œItâ€™s a miracle when a sperm and egg meet, but sometimes things donâ€™t go to plan.â€
Filming took place throughout 2020 and was able to continue during the pandemic, with most filming undertaken using GoPro cameras worn by staff, temporary fixed cameras in clinical rooms, and video diaries recorded by the patients at home.
Other stories included Susie and Andy. Susie explains she has been on a long, emotional journey to become pregnant for a second time, spending thousands of pounds on IVF in order to conceive.
Susie and Andy with their triplets, Vinnie, Eddie and Max
She has finally fallen pregnant with triplets and is now 16-weeks pregnant. However, thereâ€™s a problem and she has to be closely monitored as two of her babies, who are identical twins, may have a life-threatening blood sharing condition.
Usually the placenta is shared equally, but when itâ€™s not, one baby can receive too much blood and the other too little. This condition is called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, or TTTS.
If TTTS develops and the team does not treat it, then there is a 90 per cent chance Susie will miscarry the whole pregnancy, losing all three babies fairly rapidly.
The team treats the condition by using a laser beam to seal off some of the blood vessels in the placenta shared by the twins, so that both babies receive a more equal supply of blood.
The surgery is successful and Susieâ€™s triplets are born healthy at her local hospital.
Susie and Andy said, â€œVinnie, Eddie and Max are seven months old and keeping Susie, Andy and Henry busy. Theyâ€™re loving real food, starting to get on the move and finding their voices.
â€œHenry is loving being a big brother for the first, second and third time all at once. This entirely new kind of joy in the house wouldnâ€™t be possible without Professor Basky and the team at St Georgeâ€™s. Thank you.â€
Sadly, despite medical intervention, not all pregnancies go to plan â€“ and together with Channel 4 and Tommyâ€™s charity, St Georgeâ€™s is also raising awareness and breaking the silence surrounding baby loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth.
For support, you can visit their website.
Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter
May 10, 2021