This Mom And Baby Underwent Surgery In-Utero For Spina Bifida

by Cassandra Stone
Image via EBU Photography

Her son was removed from the womb for surgery on his spine at just 23.5 weeks gestation

At just 23 and a half weeks pregnant, Jessica Trinkle was given news that would make any parent-to-be frightened and worried — her son had a lesion on his spinal cord. Doctors eventually diagnosed the baby with Spina Bifida. This diagnosis led to a rare, nerve-wracking operation where the lesion is corrected while the baby is still in-utero.

Jessica says she spent countless hours Googling her son’s diagnosis, even though doctors warned her against it. “In the midst of searching for any ounce of hope, I then came across myelomenigocele, a form of Spina Bifida that allows mothers to undergo open fetal surgery to prevent further damage.”

Spina Bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect that is associated with life in the United States. It’s a type of neural tube defect (NTD) that occurs when a babies neural tube fails to develop or close properly – the literal meaning for Spina Bifida is “split spine.”

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Fetal spina bifida surgery is shown to offer significantly better results than traditional repair after birth. Because spinal cord damage is progressive during gestation, prenatal repair of myelomeningocele may prevent further damage.

Jessica, along with her husband, Spenser, and their two-year-old daughter, Aria, traveled to Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies for an in-utero surgery on their son, whom they named Parker, for the repair of myelomeningocele. The couple was told this was the fourth Spina Bifida surgery done in the Orlando hospital, but their doctor performing the surgery had already done 60 surgeries at other hospitals.

“The surgery itself was extensive and consisted of a team of more than 13 doctors and nurses,” Jessica says. “Together our surgeons made about a 10-inch incision into my abdomen, which is then followed by about a 5-inch incision into the uterus. Mock amniotic fluids are also infused constantly into the uterus to keep the fluid levels safe for Parker and me.”

Image via EBU Photography

During the surgery, Parker’s back and bottom were exposed and repaired while he was still in the womb. After the surgery was complete, the uterus is closed again. It’s a terrifying yet miraculous medical procedure — and a lot to process, both mentally and physically.

After the successful surgery, Jessica was given strict instructions on what she needed to do for the remainder of her pregnancy in order for Parker to make it to full-term. She spent three weeks in Orlando, away from her home and everything familiar to her, recovering from the surgery.

Parker was delivered on February 6th via C-section. Jessica says she’s incredibly grateful to the medical team who worked together throughout her pregnancy to ensure Parker’s delivery was as seamless as possible. “I was so thankful that all these people in the room invested their time and knowledge into my son in helping give my son the best possible outcome in life,” she says.

He was the first ever baby with Spina Bifida in 70 years to be born at Winnie Palmer and not have to be admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit.

Jessica, Spenser, Aria, and Parker were all photographed by EBU Photography for one sweet set of newborn photos.

Image via EBU Photography

Image via EBU Photography

Parker is now a month old, and, according to his mom, continues to thrive. “He is just like any other newborn baby, loves to eat, sleep and poo,” she says. “From the outside looking in you would never be able to tell anything was different about him.” Jessica shares Parker’s journey on the Facebook page Positively Parker.

She hopes by sharing her family’s story, it’ll benefit any other family experiencing a similar diagnosis or situation. She says life is like a book that should never be judge by its cover. “Take the time to read between the lines and find comfort in knowing it is love that matters most.”