Chad and Keri McCartney are not referring to religion when they claim their young daughter, Macie Hope, was born twice.
Texas Children’s Hospital extracted the little fetus from Keri McCartney’s womb around six months into her pregnancy to remove a cancer that would have killed Macie before she was born.
The McCartneys welcomed their medically restored – and perfectly healthy – baby daughter into the world for the second time on May 3.
The happy couple talked from the hospital on Friday, where they were joined by Dr. Darrell Cass, the fetal surgeon who led the team that successfully completed a treatment that has only been done less than 20 times around the world. “We were really, extremely lucky,” Macie said of her circumstances. “It turned out to be really incredible.”
The McCartneys’ story began in Keri’s 23rd week of pregnancy, when the couple went to their obstetrician’s office with their complete family to find out the gender of the baby Keri was carrying.
“We had our entire family,” Chad McCartney said. “Our four children had piled into the car, and we were on our way to our routine ultrasound to find out the gender of the baby.” There was a lot of excitement because that was the main topic of conversation on the way up.”
A potentially fatal revelation
Everyone waited in the ultrasound room with bated breath to see the fetus on the screen. “All of a sudden, the ultrasound tech had a very concerned look on her face,” Chad remembered. “She rushed our children out of the room before informing us that our infant had a large lump.”
The ultrasound image revealed what looked to be a balloon growing from Macie’s tailbone, but it was actually loaded with blood vessels and the same size as the fetus. The tumor was not cancerous, yet it was lethal.
“This tumor was massive,” Cass said. The speaker describes it as “the size of a grapefruit.”
The obstetrician for the McCartneys had never seen anything like it in her years of practice. After some research, she discovered that Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, which is six hours away from the family’s home in Laredo, was one of just three hospitals in the world that specialized in such conditions.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.” Cass added, “It’s probably one out of every 40,000 births.” “These tumors can grow and stay small for a long time, and they have little effect on the fetus.” In Macie’s instance, the tumor grew really swiftly… It was nearly depriving her body of the blood it needed to thrive. She would have died if nothing had been done.”
Keri and Chad returned home with a terrible diagnosis and decided to name their child right away.
“We both made the choice that we have a name for her, since we had been told that there was less than a 10% chance that she was going to make it,” Chad McCartney recalled, fighting back tears as he told the incident. “We wanted to give her a suitable name, so we named her Macie Hope – because that was all we had.”
They drove to Houston for the procedure, which Cass described as “tricky” in the surgeon’s words.
“Mrs. McCartney required a very, very deep anesthesia, nearly seven times deeper than the standard surgery,” he added. “It’s critical that the uterus be extremely relaxed.”
Keri’s abdomen was opened, and her uterus was totally removed from her body by him and two other surgeons. “We had to find a safe region of the uterus to open so we didn’t damage the placenta,” he explained.
When physicians identified one, they relaxed the womb and extracted approximately 80% of Macie Hope’s body, which weighed less than a quarter-pound, leaving only the head and upper body in the womb. The physicians worked quickly to remove the tumor and restore Macie to the safety of the womb due to the possibility of the fetus suffering cardiac arrest if she was exposed to air.
That section of the four-hour surgery took around 20 minutes to complete. To keep the amniotic fluid from leaking out, the surgeons had to properly close the uterus and make it waterproof.
“Then we had to hope that the pregnancy would last,” Cass went on.
That request was also granted. “The pregnancy lasted another 10 weeks, allowing Macie to recuperate from this malignancy that was killing her,” Cass explained.
On May 3, Macie Hope was born again, this time to stay. She and her mother have remained at Texas Medical Center since then, recovering from the remarkable procedure. Macie’s backside still has a large scar, which doctors say will heal as she grows older.
Keri and Chad McCartney were pleased that their miracle baby would be ready to go home on Saturday.
“We’re doing terrific,” Keri McCartney told Curry. “I’m ecstatic since we’re leaving tomorrow.”
She held Macie Hope in her arms. “Obviously, she is completely at peace and content with everything,” her mother remarked of the newborn, who has a thick head of hair.