Cincinnati Children’s doctors perform life-saving surgery on baby with Trisomy 18

Many doctors at other hospitals won’t consider the treatments and advise mothers to terminate pregnancies where the condition is found.
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 10:31 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - An 11-month-old girl is alive right now thanks in part to the groundbreaking work of doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Tinamarie Flores first learned her just-conceived daughter had a rare and serious genetic condition called Trisomy 18 early on in her pregnancy. Doctors in California told her the thing to do was to terminate the pregnancy and to do it as soon as possible.

“I look at her as a baby, you know? I don’t look at her as a diagnosis,” Flores said Friday from California, where she and her daughter, Thessa, remain after the surgery.

Trisomy 18, sometimes called Edward syndrome, causes various symptoms including problems with the heart and kidneys. Thessa was also born with no right ear, an underdeveloped brain and clenched fists.

Only about 50 percent of babies with Trisomy 18 make it to term, according to Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute Medical Director Dr. David Cooper. Nine in 10 die before their first birthday. Those that do often experience severe intellectual disabilities, feeding problems and seizures.

Tinamarie says Thessa was denied life-saving interventions in California because of the diagnosis, but Cincinnati Children’s offered hope.

“We’re not going to use the number of chromosomes you have to determine whether or not you’re going to get surgery,” said Cooper.

He says there’s elevated risks when doctors take on Trisomy 18 cases but it’s important to bring awareness.

“More and more people are talking about it,” he said. “More and more people are now willing to intervene in these children and offer them surgery and other care.”

Cincinnati Children's Hospital physicians prepare an infant girl for surgery for complications...
Cincinnati Children's Hospital physicians prepare an infant girl for surgery for complications due to Trisomy 18.(Provided)

The surgery happened a few months ago to repair a hole in Thessa’s heart. She recently started chemotherapy for a tumor in her liver and has yet to return from hospital care in California, but she has her life thanks to Cooper’s team.

“Thessa will lead the way,” Tinamarie said. “I mean, if she goes, she goes. If she stays, then we’re here for her.”

Cooper says if Thessa survives she will need a ventilator for the rest of her life. He adds parents of Trisomy 18 children must decide if this quality of life is something they want for their child.

It’s a decision Tinamarie has already made.

“We just feel so blessed to be chosen as Thessa’s parents and we’re excited to take care of her,” she said.

Thessa will return home on Tuesday.

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