According to a story from the Washington Post, Vanellope Hope Wilkins had to immediately be placed in sterile plastic when she was born. This was because her heart, while functional, was not where it should be. The girl had been born with her heart beating on the outside of her chest.
Her parents Dean and Naomi were amazed that their girl had been born alive at all.
Vanellope was born in Leicester, England via Caesarian section with a rare condition called ectopia cordis. With this condition the heart develops partially or entirely outside of the chest cavity. The condition is often associated with various other heart development defects and other malformations. Often the heart protrudes through a split sternum. There are very limited treatment options available, and the condition is almost always fatal with new infants not surviving long after birth. To learn more about this condition, click here.
Not long after learning about the pregnancy, doctors told Dean and Naomi that the baby had a very rare and risky condition. Scans indicated that both her stomach and heart were growing outside of her chest; in a few weeks, the stomach moved into place, but the heart did not. Some doctors told them to end the pregnancy, but the parents refused to give up on their daughter.
Less than an hour after being born, with the aid of a feeding tube and medication to help her heartbeat, doctors determined that the baby was stable enough for surgery to place her heart back where it belonged. The blood vessels the connected to the heart were longer than usual, so doctors had to perform a special procedure to keep the vessels from losing circulation before her heart could be moved.
Vanellope was also fortunate because, unlike in many cases of ectopia cordis she did not have any other the other heart problems that most babies with the condition carry. This meant that as long as the heart could be positioned properly it could carry on normal function. Generally the rare cases of survival are in babies that do not have other heart abnormalities. Now, the little girl is healthy and strong. Doctors believe that Vanellope might actually be the first baby born in the United Kingdom to survive ectopia cordis.