Human Rights

Baby Matthew is alive thanks to UC Davis doctors’ first successful preborn surgery

ultrasound, sonogram

Doctors at UC Davis Children’s Hospital have successfully performed surgery on a baby boy while he was still inside the womb. Baby Matthew is being called a miracle by his parents, who have lived with infertility, suffered miscarriages, and lost a stillborn baby girl all in the last three years.

Bobby Angeles and Khae Saetern were excited to be expecting their son Matthew (whose name means “a gift from God”) but were devastated to learn he had a condition called hydrops. With hydrops, fluid builds up in parts of the baby’s body and in Matthew’s case, it was accumulating in his chest.

The doctors didn’t offer much hope at first, and Matthew was at risk of dying, however the team didn’t give up, and soon found a solution. Their doctor told Matthew’s parents that it would be risky, but that he could perform surgery on Matthew while he was still in the womb to drain the excess fluid.


“Everything happened so fast, so you really don’t have time to digest everything, Saetern told CBS. “We had our concerns and we had our questions, but ultimately, we left it to the doctor to decide what was in the best interest of the baby and my health.”

At 32 weeks gestation, doctors performed UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s first successful fetal surgery. They made an incision in Saetern’s abdomen and used a catheter to drain the fluid from Matthew’s chest.

Two months later, a healthy Matthew is finally at home with his parents, in the nursery that had been waiting for a baby for years, and just in time for Christmas.

“We had our moments, ya know, where we were worried, but the power of prayer and believed in the staff. They’re amazing,” said Angeles.

After suffering so many tragic losses, the couple is thrilled to finally be able to place Matthew in his crib and have their baby at home with them. Thanks to a doctor and medical team who refused to give up when all hope seemed lost, a preborn baby’s life was saved and a couple finally received the happy ending they had been waiting for.

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