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Baby Born With Heart Outside Her Body Undergoes First Surgery

Ben Birchall/Press Association

A baby born with her heart outside of her body has survived a series of three risky operations.

Vanellope Hope Wilkins was born on Nov. 22 with no breast bone. She was delivered by caesarean section in Leicester, England, after her parents discovered she was suffering from the rare condition called ectopia cordis, BBC reports.

Vanellope's parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 41, said they were initially scared over their daughter's diagnosis.

"It was a real shock when the ultrasound showed that her heart was outside her chest and scary because we didn't know what would happen," Findlay said.

Wilkins said when the condition was discovered, doctors advised the couple to terminate the pregnancy. The couple decided against it, as a blood test showed there were no chromosomal abnormalities.

"We were advised to have a termination and that the chances of survival were next to none - no one believed she was going to make it except us," he said.

Findlay added she couldn't abort her pregnancy in good conscience.

"To see, even at nine weeks, a heartbeat - no matter where it was. It was not something I was going to take away." she said. "In a way her strength gave me a strength to keep going."

Vanellope was delivered nearly a month early in an effort for doctors to mitigate the risk of her of infection and damage to the heart.

Less than an hour later, she was taken into her first surgery.

It took a medical staff of 50, including obstetricians, heart surgeons, anesthetists, neonatologists and midwives to make sure the operation was a success.

Frances Bu'Lock, a consultant pediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said while cases of survival are often rare, after Vanellope's third surgery - where her skin was used to cover the hole in her chest - she's proved to be quite the tenacious young girl.

"Before she was born things looked very bleak but now they are quite a lot better - Vanellope is doing really well and has proved very resilient," Bu'Lock said.

"In the future we may be able to put in some internal bony protection for her heart - perhaps using 3D printing or something organic that would grow with her," she added.

Findlay told The Guardian the couple named their daughter after a character from Disney's Wreck-It Ralph, who shares the same determined spirit.

“Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” Findlay said.

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