Your Health: Life-saving surgery on newborn

Published: May. 9, 2023 at 4:22 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Each week in the United States, roughly 70,000 babies are born prematurely.

That means the baby was born before 37 weeks, when a full term is 40 weeks.

Many times, these babies face breathing and eating problems, but what happens if the baby is born at just 23 weeks, about half of what is considered a healthy pregnancy?

Little Harper Jacobo has come a long way. She and her twin sister Gabriella were born prematurely at just 23 weeks, weighing less than a third of a pound.

“They fit in the palms of my hand,” said their mother, Kayla Hatch. “They were very, very tiny. I mean, very small.”

While both girls were small, it was Harper who was given just a one percent chance of survival when she was born. Doctors said she shouldn’t have even survived delivery, but that wasn’t the only obstacle Harper faced.

“The two ends of her esophagus were separated by quite a bit,” said Dr. Steven Rothenberg. “So, basically, means that she could not swallow whatsoever.”

Rothenberg Led a team at Rocky Mountain Hospital For Children, performing three lifesaving surgeries on Harper. The first one, stretching the two ends to try to bring them together.

“We got the two ends almost together, but there was still about, maybe a one-inch gap between the two ends,” Rothenberg recalled.

Then, he took part of Harper’s chest wall to create a bandaid between the two ends, closing the gap to half an inch, then he used magnets to finally bring the ends together.

“We put one magnet down her mouth and into the upper part of her esophagus, we put the other magnet through her gastrostomy tube,” Rothenberg said. “What happened over the next few days, the magnets gradually attracted to each other.”

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