A baby boy given a 10% chance of survival underwent an innovative surgical procedure that saved his life — while he was still attached to the placenta.
Maverick Mashburn had a mass in his right lung that doctors discovered was putting pressure on his esophagus, preventing him from properly processing amniotic fluid and pushing his heart to the side. He was diagnosed with Congenital Pulmonary Airway Malformation (CPAM), a rare congenital birth defect that includes a cystic mass of abnormal lung tissue. According to People, it occurs in between 12,000 and 25,000 preborn children and it is not genetic.
After delivering the news of the diagnosis, doctors told Maverick’s parents Adrianna and Micah that there was only a 10% chance that Maverick would survive. “They were telling us they didn’t think he was going to make it,” Adrianna told People. “They told us to prepare ourselves for the worst. We were devastated — not knowing why this was happening or what our options were.”
The couple met with Dr. Darrell Cass, Director of Fetal Surgery and Director of the Fetal Care Center at the Cleveland Clinic when Adrianna was 33 weeks and five days pregnant. Cass told the couple that instead of waiting until Maverick was born to perform surgery to remove the tumor, he wanted to perform the surgery while Maverick was still attached to the umbilical cord, which would still be attached to Adrianna. This, said Cass, would mean Maverick would still be receiving oxygen and nutrition from the placenta, limiting potential complications.
“I said, ‘I’ve seen this before. Many times,” Cass, who has performed this surgery 19 times, told People. “And yes, it’s concerning, but I believe we can get you and your baby through this with a good outcome. It’s absolutely the best for a case like this where the mass is squishing the heart.”
The couple agreed to the surgery. Micah thought Cass “had a good game plan” and Adrianna, feeling Maverick’s kicks, believed “he’s a fighter.”
Adrianna was admitted to the hospital two weeks before the surgery, which took place at 36 weeks and two days. Called the EXIT-to-resection procedure, a C-section was performed and Cass pulled Maverick’s head and chest out of the womb while keeping him attached to the placenta. Then, he opened Maverick’s chest and removed the 8cm mass. It was the size of a grapefruit.
People magazine referred to Maverick at the time of his surgery as “partially born” saying, “… Cass suggested surgically removing the tumor before the baby was entirely born.” (emphasis added) This raises the question: when is a preborn child a human being with rights? For the abortion industry, a child only gains rights when he has been born. Before that time, he is still considered to be disposable property, or part of his mother’s body. What was Maverick, then, while he was a surgical patient, partially out of the womb yet still attached to his mother by the umbilical cord? Was he a human being with the right to life or a fetus with no rights whatsoever?
Maverick weighed five pounds and nine ounces. After the tumor was removed, he was delivered and Cass brought him to a table to complete the surgery. Maverick spent six weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit before finally going home at the end of July.
“He recovered perfectly,” said Cass. “Maverick suffered no brain damage and no complications. He will be a healthy, normal kid.” Now at home with his parents and big brother, three-month-old Maverick weighs over 10 pounds and loves smiling and playing. His parents are eternally grateful to Cass.
“We can’t say thank you enough to Dr. Cass,” said Adrianna. “Every time we see him, we’re thanking him. It feels like those words aren’t enough for what he did for us. ”
“They gave us a child,” added Micah.
In-utero surgery has been expanding in recent years and has helped children with even the most severe cases of spina bifida to gain the ability to walk. The question remains, however, as Illinois Family Institute said, that if Maverick was “partially born” during the surgery, was he just a “partial baby?” Babies are aborted every day — even healthy ones — who are the same age that Maverick was during his in-utero surgery.
All preborn babies are equally human and equally valuable and deserve a chance at life.
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