CLEVELAND — The past year has been an emotional rollercoaster for Samantha Custer and her husband Dave.
They discovered during an ultrasound at 25 weeks pregnant that their son, Rylan, would need life-saving surgery.
“They called the doctor in and told me they found the lump on my heart,” Samantha recalls.
She and Dave were in shock, everything was fine so far.
“What we saw was a very large tumor, and this tumor was in exactly the wrong place, where it was crushing the left side of the heart,” explained Darrell Cass, MD, director of the Center for Fetal Surgery and Fetal Care at Cleveland. Clinical.
Dr Cass said that given the seriousness of the condition, they had to act quickly.
“We thought the best treatment, if anything, would probably be to try an open fetal resection of this tumor,” he said.
Dr. Cass and a team of surgeons quickly formulated a plan and within days they were prepping Samantha for surgery.
“I was able to examine and get into a very nice dissection plane, as we call it in surgical terms, and I was able to literally enucleate the entire tumor and remove it,” said Hani Najm, MD, president of the pediatric and congenital department. Heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.
“Once the tumor was removed, it was amazing. Basically the left atrium of the heart opened up and you could see the blood flow changing,” Dr. Cass added.
Rylan was then carefully placed back into the womb.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced in my entire life,” said Samantha, who gave birth to Rylan by C-section ten weeks later.
The family is now back home and doing well, grateful to the doctors for making it all possible.
“It’s a small miracle,” Dave said.
According to Dr. Cass, the Cleveland Clinic is the second academic medical center in the world to have successfully performed this fetal surgery with continued pregnancy and delivery.