After an infant in the womb was diagnosed with a tumor nearly as large as its head, the only way doctors thought they could remove it was to half-deliver the child and operate. But there was another complication: the baby is a twin.
A tumor growing on baby Jenessa's neck stemming from her thyroid was blocking her airway. As it grew, doctors monitored her health and her sister’s health. At 29 weeks, the giant mass was causing too much fluid build up, compromising Theodora Flores’ pregnancy.
"I’m gonna do whatever I need to do to bring my girls into the world," Flores said.
So in December Jenessa and her twin sister Genesis entered the world through what’s called an "exit" procedure. It took a team of 40 to safely deliver the twins. Anesthesiologists, heart doctors and fetal medicine specialists all played a role in the procedure so rare its only the second of its kind noted in medical literature.
"Plan 'A' worked. Thank god for little things. There was 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' 'D,' 'E,' 'F' …" Shaaban said.
First, Dr. Aimen Shaaban delivered Jenessa, but only partially. Her umbilical cord remained attached as he placed a breathing tube. Meanwhile, her twin Genesis rested in her mother’s womb.
"We brought the upper torso, the neck and the arms out to be able to get access to the airway, the windpipe, as well as to the hands to be able to put an IV in and to monitor the baby's oxygenation and heart rate," Shaaban said.
Jenessa immediately went from the delivery room to the operating room, where her giant tumor was removed. Then Genesis was delivered. For months, the twins stayed in the NICU in side-by-side but separate rooms. As Genesis grew stronger, Jenessa struggled.
“It was complication after complication, and we didn’t think any more could happen," Flores said.
Genesis was healthy enough to go home in March, never meeting her twin. But she finally helped her parents bring her sister home Thursday.
“It was great. I just wish her sister looked at her more. We’ve been waiting for this day,” Flores said.
For more information visit the Chicago Institute for Fetal Health.