Surgery Before Birth Changes Abdiel’s Life

Texas Children’s Hospital fetal surgery to repair spina bifida birth defect saves child from paralysis, brain damage and other life-altering complications.

Like any expectant parents, Almarie and her husband were incredibly excited about their baby’s 20-week anatomy scan that would reveal whether they were having a boy or girl. This was their second child, and they couldn’t wait to see if their son was going to have a baby sister or brother.

However, as the ultrasound began to take longer than normal, their anticipation turned to apprehension. “The nurse finally looked at my husband and me and told us that she needed to call the doctor in,” Almarie recalls. “All I was feeling at that moment were butterflies in my stomach.”

The same day that Almarie and her husband learned they were having a baby boy, they were also told that he had a birth defect known as spina bifida.

“I had never heard of spina bifida. I didn’t know what it was or what it meant,” she explains. “My husband and I did not know what to expect. We just stared at each other and tried to be as calm as possible.”

The doctor explained that the baby’s back hadn’t developed properly—there was an opening that was exposing his spinal cord and the nerves around it.

There is no cure for spina bifida, and children who are diagnosed with it can face many disabilities. Thankfully, Almarie and her husband were referred to Texas Children’s Hospital to help their unborn son, Abdiel.

Having surgery to repair Abdiel’s birth defect in utero at Texas Children’s was the most promising option. That’s because an operation before birth offered him a chance to avoid paralysis, brain damage, the need for shunts, and other serious complications. In short, Texas Children’s was able to offer Abdiel the chance for a better, more normal life—before he was even born.

“We chose to come to Texas from our home in California for the surgery because we believed Texas Children’s was the very best place for Abdiel,” Almarie explains.

“I was confident from day one because I got to meet the amazing Fetal Center team and they made me feel like I was at home.”

Today, he’s a happy 2-year-old who loves swimming and music. He’s even learning to play the piano. “Abdiel is something else.” Almarie says. “He’s walking with some help from a walker, and he loves chasing after his big brother.” “I believe if it weren’t for the amazing team of doctors at Texas Children’s, my son wouldn’t be who he is now. Texas Children’s changed our lives forever.”

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