Lynlee Hope Boemer is helping to change the way doctors think about life-saving surgery for preborn babies. As medical science advances, doctors can provide care to babies, even before they are born. Prenatal surgeries to correct heart defects and other complications detected before birth are increasingly common. However, Lynlee had the unique experience of being “born” for a life-saving procedure, and then returned to her mother’s womb for an additional 13 weeks. She was then born again on June 6, 2016.
Lynlee’s amazing journey was a difficult one, and her family faced much uncertainty. Her mother, Margaret Boemer, had a 19-year-old stepson and two daughters ages nine and two when she became pregnant with twins. Unfortunately, Margaret miscarried Lynlee’s twin early in pregnancy. Margaret and her husband never thought anything might be amiss with Lynlee’s health.
That all changed at a routine ultrasound when Margaret was 16 weeks pregnant. Doctors discovered that Lynlee had a tumor called a sacrococcygeal teratoma. The growth at the base of her spine was growing so large, her heart was overworked. Because the tumor was going to continue to grow, Lynlee’s future was uncertain. Some of the doctors strongly urged Margaret and her husband to abort Lynlee. One doctor even offered to arrange for Margaret to travel to New Mexico for a late abortion.
Thankfully, Margaret found doctors willing to try to save Lynlee’s Life. She discovered that specialists at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston could attempt an extremely rare open fetal surgery. Margaret says, “It was an easy decision for us: We wanted to give her life.” Because there were signs that Lynlee’s heart was failing, the medical team knew they would need to move quickly. The surgery was performed at 23 weeks, 5 days into Margaret’s pregnancy. Lynlee was partially removed from the womb to have most of the tumor surgically removed, saving her Life. Amazingly, she was returned to her mother after the surgery, and Margaret continued the pregnancy until 36 weeks, 5 days, when Lynlee was born, technically for the second time.
Margaret says about the experience, “It was difficult for my other children for me to be gone for four months, but we are all thankful for our family’s sacrifice because we have the blessing of Lynlee’s life today.” While Margaret was on bedrest in Houston following the surgery, her in-laws took care of her toddler and second grader, driving to and from school and activities. Margaret’s husband stayed in north Texas to keep working and providing for the family but would visit Houston with the children every weekend.
After birth, Lynlee still had a long way to go, but doctors were amazed by her progress. Lynlee underwent an additional surgery when she was eight-days-old to remove the rest of the tumor. She spent 24 days in the NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital before she could make the journey to her family’s north Texas home. In the months that followed, she had physical therapy, many doctor’s appointments, and a gamut of tests. Every three months, Lynlee traveled to Houston for further testing. Despite the ordeal, she has proven to be simply ordinary. Lynlee has met milestones and developed normally. At the beginning of June, Lynlee family celebrated her first birthday, a celebration no one expected when they first received the grim diagnosis.
Margaret says, “I’m passionate about sharing Lynlee’s story of life with others.” She adds that she and her husband “want Lynlee’s life to be a testimony to others and pray that her story might save other babies whose moms are told to terminate them for medical reasons.” Because of this, they are eager to share the amazing footage of the open fetal surgery. Margaret says about the incredible video:
After seeing the video of the Open Fetal Surgery there is no denying that Lynlee is a baby that is a precious life that should be protected and not aborted. To see Lynlee’s perfectly formed body being carefully placed back inside of me, her legs and feet, no one can argue that she is just a clump of cells that should be robbed of the chance at life outside the womb. Lynlee’s little 1lb 3oz body at 23 weeks 5 days is a gift from God and it was His to allow to live through so much.
Margaret urges families facing a similar prenatal diagnosis to research and “quickly find a hospital with advanced technology and trained doctors that give you options like Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.” While staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Houston after the surgery, Margaret met many brave mothers who had found doctors willing to treat their babies before birth to give them the best chance at Life. Lynlee’s story is a reminder that the outcome in any prenatal diagnosis cannot be predicted. Mothers facing an uncertain future for their preborn children deserve to know that there are options and, most importantly, there is hope.