For pregnant women across the world, regular ultrasounds at the hospital become part of the routine. Expectant mom Margaret Boemer could certainly attest to that, as she arrived for her appointment in 2016. However, after some worrying results, her doctors planned a dramatic procedure to save her baby’s life.
Residents of Lewisville, Texas, Margaret and her husband Jeff Boemer were the proud parents of two children. In the latter part of 2015, the mom then became pregnant with twins, as the couple looked to expand their family even further. Unfortunately, though, they were dealt a devastating blow ahead of the second trimester.
Indeed, Margaret lost one of the twins at that point, but the other baby fought on. Despite that heartbreak, though, the expectant mom continued to go through the routines as per normal, arriving for an ultrasound appointment in her 16th week. However, she then received some concerning results.
“They saw something on the scan,” Margaret recalled in an interview at the Texas Children’s Hospital. “And the doctor came in and told us that there was something seriously wrong with our baby and that she had a sacrococcygeal teratoma. And it was very shocking and scary, because we didn’t know what that long word meant or what diagnosis that would bring.”
Unfortunately for Margaret and Jeff, that “long word” would cause them tremendous worry in the ensuing weeks. A sacrococcygeal teratoma is a type of tumor that appears before the baby is born, growing from the bottom of their tailbone. Although somewhat rare, the issue is more prevalent in girls than baby boys.
On that note, the co-director of the Fetal Center at Texas Children’s Hospital looked at the dangers posed by the sacrococcygeal teratoma. “This is the most common tumor we see in a newborn,” Dr. Darrell Cass told CNN in October 2018. “Even though it’s the most common we see, it’s still pretty rare.”
“Some of these tumors can be very well tolerated, so the fetus has it and can get born with it, and we can take it out after the baby’s born,” Dr. Cass continued. “But about half of the time, they cause problems for the fetus, and it’s usually causing problems because of a blood flow problem.”
Indeed, by essentially stealing the baby’s blood, the tumor continues to expand. However, as the fetus is also trying to develop at the same time, it almost becomes a race. “In some instances, the tumor wins and the heart just can’t keep up, and the heart goes into failure, and the baby dies,” Dr. Cass added.
With that in mind, Margaret’s baby was really struggling after the diagnosis, as the tumor continued to get bigger. At that point, the expectant mother was given some difficult options, one of which was to end her pregnancy. However, Dr. Cass offered up an ambitious, albeit difficult, alternative.
Indeed, the physician suggested an emergency procedure to remove the tumor, but this would be far from simple. Given her options, though, Margaret didn’t hesitate in making a decision. “Lynlee didn’t have much of a chance,” she said to CNN of her baby. “At 23 weeks, the tumor was shutting her heart down and causing her to go into cardiac failure.”
“So it was a choice of allowing the tumor to take over her body or giving her a chance at life,” Margaret continued. “It was an easy decision for us. We wanted to give her life.” On that note, the mom prepared herself for the operation as she approached her 26th week of pregnancy.
Alongside his partner Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, Dr. Cass performed the five-hour long operation. A large portion of that time was spent working on Margaret’s uterus, opening it up so they could get to the baby. However, due to the size of the tumor, the two doctors needed to make a sizable incision to reach it.
After making the required cut, Dr. Cass then described the next few moments in incredible detail. “[The baby was] hanging out in the air,” he told CNN. “Essentially, the fetus is outside, like completely out, all the amniotic fluid falls out, it’s actually fairly dramatic.”
With a heart specialist on hand to keep watch over the baby’s heartbeat, the doctors worked on Margaret’s daughter for around 20 minutes. In that time, most of the tumor was removed. From there, the fetus was then returned to the uterus, completing the intricate operation.
After the surgery, Margaret spent the rest of her pregnancy confined to her bed. But despite everything that happened, though, the expectant mom still reached a full term with her baby. At that point, she underwent a cesarean to finally give birth to her daughter in June 2016.
Weighing in at over five pounds, baby Lynlee Hope was eventually taken to the hospital’s nursery after a trip to the neonatal intensive care unit. However, the drama didn’t end there, as the remaining parts of her tumor started to grow back, meaning that she required another operation.
“At eight days old, [Lynlee] had more surgery,” Margaret recalled. “And they were able to remove the rest of the tumor.” After spending a few more weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, Lynlee finally joined her family at home, making a full recovery. Some 12 months later, her mother then reflected on their ordeal.
“[This year] has gone by extremely fast,” Margaret told People magazine in June 2017. “We’re amazed at how well [Lynlee] is doing. We know that God has great plans for her in the future to do something big.” On that note, the mom looked back on her decision to undergo the surgery that saved her daughter’s life.
“Just to think back if we had followed that line of thinking and not given her that chance,” Margaret continued. “If we had not found Texas Children’s and doctors who were willing to give us hope and to do the surgery, we wouldn’t have her here today. She is such a blessing.”
With that in mind, Margaret then offered some reassuring words to anyone in a similar position. “We want other moms that are given the grim diagnosis to not look at it as a death sentence for their baby,” she added. “But to look at it as yes, it’s a challenge, but there are doctors and hospitals out there who can help.”