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2017- Vanellope Wilkins becomes first baby to survive birth with heart outside her body

November 22, 2022

Just 9 weeks into her pregnancy, Naomi Findlay got word that her daughter had ectopia cordis, a rare condition in which the breastbone fails to develop. The result is that the heart and part of the stomach grow outside of the baby’s body.

While most babies with this condition are stillborn or terminated, Vanellope’s parents were insistent that they wanted to follow through with the pregnancy.

Survival Against All Odds

And on November 22, 2017, their miracle baby was born prematurely via c-section.

When Vanellope Wilkins was born, the doctors put her inside a sterile plastic to protect her heart which beat outside her chest.

It took three surgeries and 14 months in the hospital, but Wilkins survived and returned home with her parents.

Vanellope Today

Today, Vanellope lives with her parents and her three siblings. Unfortunately, Vanellope has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy, autism, and partial blindness. She is expected to go completely blind by the age of 7 as part of her retinas are missing. Her parents are currently working on a fundraising campaign to raise money for a state-of-the-art sensory room for Vanellope. Her mom was quoted, "I do feel like it's been one thing after another, but she is just so resilient and so happy. She has such a character, and she always has a smile."

Quick Facts:

  • Vanellope Wilkins's parents say that they named her after the cartoon character Ralph from Wreck it Ralph because although she was disturbed at birth, she eventually became a princess.
  • Despite Vanellope Wilkins having a chromosomal defect, her heart had developed normally, hence the surgery's success.
  • Those with ectopia cordis have a 10% survival rate.
  • The condition is so rare Vanellope’s team of 50 healthcare professionals had to do some research to discover how to treat her.






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