A 12-year-old boy who underwent pioneering surgery while he was still in the womb has been reunited with the surgeon who gave him a chance of life.
Twelve years after being given a 2 per cent chance of survival, Thomas Hay is a healthy young man and recently he met the man behind it all.
In 2011, Thomas was diagnosed with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH), a rare condition affecting babies before birth, during a routine pregnancy scan at 20 weeks.
Lucy Hay, Thomas’ mother, said it ‘absolutely devastating.’
She explained: “We were told our baby had a hole in his diaphragm, allowing his abdominal organs to push through into the chest cavity and crush his lungs.”
The mother-to-be was told her unborn son had a 50 per cent chance of survival.
After researching possible surgeries Lucy said she came across one that involved operating on the baby whilst they were still in the womb at around 24 weeks.
At the time, the only person in the UK who performed the complicated surgery was Professor Kypros Nicolaides, Professor of Fetal Medicine at King’s College Hospital and a pioneer of fetal surgery.
Lucy said: “We soon had a referral to meet with Professor Nicholaides to discuss whether in-utero surgery might be an option for Thomas.
But at that moment she said they were hit with ‘heartbreaking news’ – “Thomas’ relative lung size had decreased significantly since his last scan and his chance of survival was now significantly below 2 per cent,” she said.
“An hour later, after a lot of encouragement from my husband, I was on the operating table.”
“We were fully aware that there were a number of risks involved, but we also knew that this was probably our baby’s only chance of survival.”
The complex procedure involved inserting a miniature latex balloon through the wall of Lucy’s uterus, down through Thomas’ mouth and positioning it delicately in his windpipe before inflating it.
This aim was to trap fluid that would normally escape through his mouth, forcing Thomas’ lungs to expand and develop.
Lucy remembered what it was like: “My husband and I watched on the monitor as Professor Nicholaides inserted a camera into my womb and we saw him carefully guide it through our baby’s mouth and down into his windpipe.
“The room was jam-packed with students all wanting to watch the renowned Professor carry out this pioneering operation. Over the next few months, Thomas’ lungs increased in size dramatically.”
After having the balloon removed via keyhole surgery, Thomas was born at 37 weeks in August 2011.
Now twelve years old, Thomas is sociable and active, as well as being ‘Star Wars and Lego obsessed’ according to his mother. “He leads a completely normal life,” she said.
On getting the chance to meet the man who saved his life, Thomas Hay commented: “It was amazing to finally meet Professor Nicolaides. After hearing so much about him and what he did for me before I was born, I was very excited and grateful to be meeting him.”
Professor Kypros Nicolaides, Professor of Fetal Medicine at King’s College Hospital, said: “It was a great pleasure meeting Thomas. He’s doing brilliantly and it makes a big difference to me when I see such excellent results of our fetal interventions.”