Denver surgeons treat newborn with spina bifida right after birth

DENVER — Nearly 2,000 babies are born with a condition called spina bifida each year. It’s a condition where the spine and spinal cord become exposed, leaving the child at risk for several illnesses.

Surgeons can usually treat a fetus while still in the womb, but not in every case.

Now, a group of Denver surgeons are showing success in treating babies with spina bifida within hours after they are born.

Stephanie and Kyle Thomas say they are thankful that their son Rowan received the treatment.

An ultrasound revealed that Rowan developed spina bifida but due to a complication, surgery was not an option before he was born.

Kyle Thomas says it was a difficult time for both of them. “You sort of deal with the shock of what does this mean.”

The answer came from doctors at the Rocky Mountain Hospital For Children (Healthone Center For Maternal Fetal Health).

The team quickly performed surgery on little Rowan immediately after he was born.

Dr. Renatta Osterdock explains, “We take apart the tissues on the outside. We reassemble the spinal cord put it back inside the spine.”

Rowan spent the next few weeks at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, then finally got to go home, where he’s spending lots of time captivating his extremely proud parents.

Kyle Thomas says, “One of the first things that Dr. Osterdock said to me was ‘oh he’s going to walk and (another doctor) in Nashville said this child will be in a wheelchair, that was an impactful moment for me.”

Rowan’s mother Stephanie says it’s been a long journey, but well worth having their little boy in their lives and adds, “We didn’t really know what this road was going to look like and looking at him and seeing him move and wiggle is just perfect.”

Facing this challenge was especially difficult for the couple.

Stephanie lost her father Stan to cancer just three weeks before Rowan was born.

Stan knew he wouldn’t be able to see his grandchild, so he recorded videos and made a special audio book for Rowan, so one day he will be able to see his grandfather and know of the deep love he will always have for him.

Doctors say pregnant women don’t show any symptoms when their child is developing spina bifida so prenatal visits are important.

For more information you can visit the website for the National Insitute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/spina_bifida/detail_spina_bifida.htm .

You can also learn more at www.rockymountainhospitalforchildren.com.