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Home / Blog / New Jersey Baby Born with Rare Fatal Condition Defies the Odds

A baby born this past March recently celebrated his seven-month birthday with his family in Garfield, New Jersey. Lucas Santa Maria was diagnosed with a fatal condition before he was born – a condition that, up until now, no baby in the world has ever survived outside the womb. However, Lucas did, with the help of doctors who performed groundbreaking surgery that saved his life.

His condition, called exencephaly, occurs when a fetus’ brain develops outside of the skull. Exencephaly is medically referred to as “incompatible with extrauterine life,” and statistically happens in about three out of every 10,000 pregnancies. Without protection from the skull, the fetal brain is exposed to amniotic fluid and trauma.

Lucas’ mother, Maria, was informed of her son’s condition in the 10th week of her pregnancy. She was given a choice to terminate the pregnancy, or deliver the baby with the chance of spending a few minutes with him after the birth. She chose the latter, and her husband made funeral arrangements. However, Lucas survived longer than expected, breathing and eating on his own for several hours – long enough for doctors and surgeons to make the decision to perform surgery in an attempt to cover his exposed brain.

The surgery, performed by Dr. Tim Vogel of the North Jersey Brain and Spine Center, was successful and Lucas went home with his family after a few weeks. Although Dr. Vogel had to remove half of Lucas’ basal ganglia, responsible for many important brain functions, he also explained that an infant’s brain has a great ability to adapt and relearn.

As the baby’s skull bone grows, Dr. Vogel will shave layers to fill in the sunken areas on Lucas’ head, giving his skull a more rounded look. And although it remains to be seen how far Lucas will advance physically and mentally, he is already cereal and baby food, and cooing to his mother – just like any other baby his age.

“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,” Vogel said.

About birth injuries

Lucas’ story is a happy one. It appears that his mother had the proper prenatal care and was notified of his condition in a timely manner. She was able to make an informed decision on how to proceed. In this case, there was a happy ending and we wish the family continued health and happiness.

Some families, however, are not so fortunate. Some infants suffer birth injuries both in utero and during birth, due to the negligence or carelessness of an obstetrician or other medical personnel. This can happen from a failure to properly monitor the development of a fetus or a failure to notice signs of distress during the labor process.

Our New Jersey birth injury and wrongful birth attorneys provide compassionate representation when your family is suffering from the aftermath of negligent doctors or OB-GYNs. We can help you hold the right people accountable. Call us today.

Talk to the legal team at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP today by calling 732-384-1331 or filling out the contact form to schedule a free consultation at our offices in Edison, Toms River, or Red Bank.



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