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Girl riding tricycle in park

Victoria from Prunedale, CA, was still in utero when she was diagnosed with spina bifida, a condition where the spine and spinal cord do not form properly. Spina bifida is often called the “snowflake condition” because no two cases are alike. Karen and Angel, Victoria’s parents, were faced with a crucial decision that would change their daughter’s life forever.

A Life-Changing Opportunity

Karen was 20 weeks pregnant when she and Angel received the devastating news. Without intervention, their baby may never be able to walk, may accumulate fluid on her brain, or have other life-long complications.

Karen and Angel were still reeling as they met with Mark Boddy, MD, director of the Stanford Children’s Health Salinas Perinatal Diagnostic Center. Dr. Boddy gently walked the couple through the diagnosis and offered their first glimpse of hope. He described a new partnership between Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Texas Children’s Hospital. Babies like Victoria were undergoing corrective surgery—while still in their mothers’ wombs.

Karen and Angel put their trust in the Stanford Children’s Health and Packard Children’s Hospital team and took a leap to have the life-changing fetal surgery that would correct Victoria’s spine. Yair Blumenfeld, MD, Director of our Fetal Therapy Program, was with the family every step of the way, especially during Karen and Victoria’s surgery—and it was a success! Weeks later, baby Victoria made her entrance into the world, kicking her tiny legs. It was a sight that brought tears to her parents’ eyes.

Life-long Impact

As she has grown, Victoria has received care from our Spina Bifida Clinic and undergone intensive physical therapy to help her with balance and muscle strength. She was able to walk with a walker at 1-and-a-half years old, and the day before the two-year anniversary of her in utero surgery, Victoria did something many children with spina bifida never do.

“I can’t describe the moment,” says Karen. “We didn’t know if Victoria would ever walk on her own. She took her first unassisted steps and looked around at all of us, as if she was asking, ‘Why are all of you crying?’”

“When we received the diagnosis of our daughter’s spina bifida, we were given the option to undergo fetal surgery,” Karen continues, “And the only reason we had that option was because of the research that has been done with the support of donors.”

Active and Thriving

Now an active 5-year-old, Victoria loves to ride her bike and play soccer with her siblings—another amazing milestone and a testament to the care she received. Karen and Angel are deeply grateful for everything their care teams have done to bring Victoria this far.

“We wonder what she would have been like without the surgery,” Karen says. “What we’re sure of is that she has better circumstances now. We are very thankful that we were introduced to the doctors who made such a difference for us.”

“It’s such an honor and privilege to help families like Karen, Angel, and Victoria,” says Dr. Blumenfeld. “At Packard Children’s Hospital we are always looking to advance the field, develop national and international collaborations, and provide the best possible care for our pregnant mothers and their children. We look forward to seeing Victoria grow and so glad that they are a part of our extended family.”

Thank you for being there for Victoria, even before she was born. Your support ensures that babies like Victoria and their families have access to the latest research and the best care.

You can make an even greater impact this holiday season for kids at our hospital. Donate to the Children’s Fund and 100% will support patients and their families!

Winter Art Contest

We know there are SO many talented young artists in our community … and we want to show you off! Help us celebrate the holidays by participating in our Winter Art Showcase. Download the entry form here and you could be featured on our holiday card next year. Happy Holidays!