Imagine finding out you are pregnant and, only 10 weeks in, learning that your baby has a rare condition that is likely to take its life. What would you do? This is exactly the situation New Jersey mom, Maria Santa Maria, was faced with when she learned that her unborn baby had a rare condition called, exencephaly. Doctors told Maria that the condition is fatal and that her baby wouldn't survive because he would be born missing parts of his skull.
Maria said that upon finding out the news, her doctors "recommended abortion" but that she could not go through with that decision. Instead, she carried him to term and prepared her three daughters for their baby brother's short life.
When she delivered her baby, Lucas, Maria allowed her three daughters to come in and meet him before his inevitable passing. However, Dr. Tim Vogel with North Jersey Brain and Spine Center evaluated Lucas and noted that despite missing part of his skull, he was an otherwise healthy baby. So, he decided to give the baby a fighting chance "by closing the skin around his exposed brain tissue" only four days after birth.
Much to everyone's surprise, Lucas made it through the surgery and continued to thrive.
Now, Lucas is seven months old and is the first baby to survive this long with the condition. He still has a long road ahead of him, including multiple surgeries and medical intervention, and not much is known about how he will develop physically or mentally since he is the first to survive to this point.
Dr. Vogel is cautiously optimistic about Lucas' future at this point. The sweet baby has a strong "will to live" and Dr. Vogel says "it's just awesome to be a part of something that is so unique, and to really know there's a promising future for Lucas." In fact, Lucas is "exceeding expectations" in terms of development. Like any seven-month-old, he is working towards crawling, eating well, and making huge strides in physical therapy. To say Dr. Vogel is amazed is a huge understatement.
Maria is obviously thrilled about the progress Lucas is making, and the time she's been able to spend with him. She was prepared to hold him in her arms for a day at most, so to witness him thriving well past his prognosis is a miracle to her.
Hopefully, Lucas is the first of many babies to survive and thrive despite the condition.