Infant saved by rare procedure at Stanford hospital

Lyanne Melendez Image
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Infant saved by rare procedure at Stanford hospital
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An infant is thriving after a team of doctors at Stanford performed a rare procedure while he was still in his mother's womb.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- A team of doctors at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital performed a rare procedure on a baby while still in his mother's womb. And it ended up saving his life.

On Wednesday, Elijah Alvarez went back to the hospital for a routine checkup. The 8-month-old is a very healthy baby boy who just wants to look around and play. It was a very different story months ago while in his mother's tummy.

"The normal lung on the left is pushed up because this round circle just doesn't belong here," explains pediatric surgeon Karl Sylvester.

The round circle is a cyst about the size of a tangerine. It wasn't allowing Elijah's left lung to grow and it was pushing his heart to the other side.

"I was shocked, I was sad of course," said the infant's mother, Elizabeth Alvarez.

Doctors had to drain that cyst while the baby was still in utero; a procedure that had never been done before at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

But Dr. Jane Chueh, a high risk obstetrician, had been trained at another children's hospital.

"Much like an amniocentesis, which I think a lot of women have had, we place a needle into the uterus into the amniotic sack," she said. "But in this case, we placed it into the cyst."

Immediately after he was born, surgeons were ready to surgically remove the now deflated cyst and part of his lung.

"So on the right side perfectly normal," Sylvester said. "On the left, he has approximately one-third. But that lung bud, which is one-third the size, is still growing and is still learning to function normal."

His parents showed us the size of his scar, left from the operation.

"What God did for us and what they did for us here, it's making me a little bit emotional," said the infant's father, Salvador Alvarez. "Just so much to be thankful for."

Doctors will continue to check that left lung to see how it's developing.

"You can expect he's gonna play soccer or any other activity he chooses just like any other child," Sylvester said.

"I used to play soccer," said Alvarez. "So hopefully he can play soccer. I think he will."

For now he seems to have an affinity for the microphone. Perhaps he'll be a singer with a powerful set of lungs.