Doctors Fix Baby's Spine While She's Still in Mom's Uterus

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Baby Eiko Cristomo would have been born with spina bifida, but she has now received a clean bill of health by doctors, thanks to an in-utero surgery performed when her mom was barely six months pregnant.

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“She’s doing really well,” Eiko’s mom Romeila Son, 36, of Toronto, Canada, told

“Her legs are kicking. She’s got feeling all the way down to her toes, her back is fully healed, her brain is stable, and she is just a regular baby right now.”

Son, who has four sons ranging in age between 4 and 16, said she was heartbroken when she discovered her first daughter would be born with spina bifida.

“We were devastated,” she said. “We were absolutely crushed. She’s our first girl after having four boys, so that was just [devastating].”

Spina bifida, characterized by a birth defect in the spinal cord, causes paralysis of the lower limbs, hydrocephalus and incontinence, according to Sinai Health Systems. Some children with the condition do not live into adulthood, and most will not live independently as adults.

Son spent the next several weeks in her pregnancy doing research, and discovered some hospitals offer a surgery to correct a baby’s spina bifida before he or she is even born.

Although no doctor has performed the surgery in Canada, Son decided to bring up the procedure to Dr. Greg Ryan of Mount Sinai Hospital and Dr. James Drake of SickKids, two doctors she said were recommended through a friend whose baby also had to undergo a risky surgery.

“I wasn’t scared — I had 100 percent confidence in them and their abilities,” Son said. “Thankfully all the tests came back okay and I was a candidate.”

At 25 weeks pregnant, Son and her baby became the first in Canada to undergo in-utero surgery. Following its success, Son delivered her baby in August, two months later, via cesarean section.

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Eiko then spent three weeks in the NICU before she was able to go home with her family.

“It was emotional," Son said. "Seeing your baby hooked up to monitors is very heartbreaking at first, but the nurses took really good care of her. As time went on, she continued to get better. She’s doing really well, so we’re just hoping it stays this way.”

Doctors said it is unlikely that Eiko will need further surgery in the future.