A New Jersey family got the shock of a lifetime when their baby, who was expected to die shortly after birth, kept breathing.
Maria Santa Maria's baby was diagnosed with a rare cranial condition via ultrasound in which his skull hadn't formed properly. The condition, called exencephaly, leaves babies' brains exposed and is typically fatal upon delivery. Although doctors suggested that Santa Maria abort the pregnancy, she decided to give her son as long of a life as he was destined to have, knowing he would probably die right after birth.
Expecting only a few seconds with her son after he was born, Santa Maria had prepared for the worst. Her three older children were warned that their baby brother wouldn't live very long and funeral arrangements were made. Reported babies who have been born with exencephaly all died soon after birth.
Santa Maria's baby, Lucas, defied expectations and kept living. He was breathing, eating and acting like a typical newborn. When the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the North Jersey Brain and Spine Center, Dr. Tim Vogel, heard about the miraculous baby, he suggested to the family that they should consider surgery to stabilize Lucas's brain and the "water balloon on top of his head", reports CNN. His parents decided to go through with the surgery.
Dr. Vogel explained that "if he goes home and this fluid sac ruptures, that would be unsurvivable." So, Vogel removed the damaged parts of his brain in hopes the undamaged parts would take over and make up for what he removed, also known as neuroplasticity. In doing so, Vogel greatly diminished the chances of reoccurring seizures and more brain damage to occur.
Now seven-months-old, Lucas is stabilized and beating all odds. His mother says that he eats cereal and baby food and even coos at her. He has started attempting to crawl and has been doing physical therapy to help his brain develop even more.
Dr. Vogel is following along in Lucas's development and will continue to treat him as he grows to enhance his neurodevelopment and ensure his brain is safe. Santa Maria is beyond grateful for the time she has gotten with her son and never imagined she would have brought him home, let alone seen him grow.