Mater doctors have saved the life of a premature baby girl after successfully removing a two- kilogram tumour from a tiny newborn’s spine.
North Lakes parents Rachel and Kieran Thomson’s “miracle baby” Saylor was born three months early at Mater Mothers’ Hospital with a tumour weighing double her birth weight of 1025 grams.
When her baby’s fast-growing tumour was first identified in a 20-week scan, Mrs Thomson was told her daughter had a 25-40 per cent chance of survival.
But almost two months since her August birth, Saylor has made a fantastic recovery and is growing stronger by the day.
Her parents are sharing their inspiring story for World Prematurity Day (17 November) and to highlight the incredible care they received at Mater Mothers’ Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Mater Mothers’ Hospital is Queensland’s centre for babies requiring complex cardiac and surgical care.
A complex six-hour operation was performed just moments after Saylor was born to remove the sacrococcygeal teratoma – a tumour that grows from a baby’s tailbone and occurs in one out of 40,000 live births.
Sacrococcygeal teratomas divert blood from the baby, raising their risk of heart failure.
According to Mater Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit Professor Sailesh Kumar, Saylor’s tumour was the largest ever removed from a baby of her size at Mater Mothers’ Hospital, Australia’s largest maternity services provider.
Prof Kumar delivered Saylor with support from a team of 25 surgeons, neonatologists, anaesthetists, theatre staff, nurses and midwives.
“We don’t know why the tumour grows, but it arises from embryonic germ cells and is four times more likely to occur in female infants,” Prof Kumar said.
“Saylor’s tumour was extremely large and very complex. The tumour extended into her pelvis and abdomen.
“Many of these babies do not survive the pregnancy. Essentially these tumours function like a large vascular shunt causing a lot of blood to return to the heart. In some babies the heart can’t cope with this extra volume and heart failure occurs.”
Dr Peter Borzi, a neonatal and paediatric surgeon at Mater Mothers’ Hospital and Queensland Children’s Hospital, performed the painstaking operation to remove the tumour and said its size was extremely rare.
The surgery involved removing part of Saylor’s tailbone to prevent the tumour growing back again.
Dr Borzi said Saylor required five blood transfusions during the surgery, but she had proven to be “strong and resilient”.
“She has made a fantastic recovery, with the help of the teams at Mater Mothers’ Hospital and Queensland Children’s Hospital,” he said.
The Thomsons were able to hold their “strong-willed little fighter” 10 days after birth.
“When the social worker and surgeons first gathered to tell us she had little chance of making it due to prematurity and the tumour, I cried hysterically,” Mrs Thomson said.
“But being able to hold Saylor in my arms and know she has come through the other side is something special.”
Mater Neonatologist Dr Richard Mausling said that without the expertise and skill of Mater’s nursing staff and allied health teams Saylor would not be alive today.
“Being born prematurely, even at 28 weeks, carries its own potential risks,” Dr Mausling said.
“Without a doubt, this was the biggest teratoma I have seen removed from any newborn baby, regardless of gestation.
“Rachel and Kieran were counselled extensively by Prof Kumar and senior neonatologist Professor Helen Liley in the antenatal period and would have been fully informed of the risks Saylor faced being born this prematurely and with the size of teratoma.”
Dr Mausling said Saylor had gone from “strength to strength” and had gained weight since her birth, almost reaching 3 kilograms.