A ‘miracle’ baby born four months prematurely survived after London doctors performed a ground-breaking operation to save her, it can be revealed today.
Abi Peters is believed to be the youngest ever patient to survive major abdominal surgery, which she had just six days after being born at 23 weeks’ gestation.
Medics believed the operation at St George’s hospital had a “less than 10 per cent” chance of success.
She weighed 1.3lbs (609g) – about two-thirds of a bag of sugar – and was smaller than surgeon Zahid Mukhtar’s hand.
She was discharged home on Monday, after four months and a day in hospital. Her mother Louise, 32, told the Standard: “It’s been such a rollercoaster and it was so scary when it first happened. We didn’t know what to expect. We prayed and hoped for the best.
“The operation happened at such an early age. Within a day or two she would have been dead.
“They told us all the risks but they didn’t say this is the youngest baby in the world who has been operated on, otherwise it might have scared us too much.
“Bringing her home was brilliant. It’s just been amazing. She has overcome every hurdle she has faced.
“The NHS is absolutely phenomenal. I’m not sure she would have survived in another country. She truly is our little miracle.”
Mrs Peters, an analyst at Investec bank, had gone into early labour suddenly at home in Hinchley Wood, near Esher, despite an otherwise normal pregnancy.
Abi was delivered at St Peter’s hospital, Chertsey, on October 26 and immediately put on life support.
She was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at St George’s, in Tooting, five days later when it was thought that life-saving surgery may be required.
She was suffering from a severe gut condition that affects pre-term babies, called perforated necrotizing enterocolitis.
It is the most common surgical emergency in premature babies but the youngest previously operated on were 25-26 weeks’ gestation.
Mr Mukhtar, 45, a consultant paediatric surgeon who led a 10-strong theatre team, said: “My mother and grandmother taught me never to give up on a child.
“It’s a real privilege to do this – it’s amazing work. It’s because we have this team of people who are really passionate about children’s survival and pushing the boundaries of what is humanly possible.”
Surgeons used specially adapted equipment because she was so small.
Mr Mukhtar said: “Abi is a unique case, and we only chose to operate because her chances of survival without surgery were so small. The fact she survived the operation – and is now doing so well – is fantastic.”
Mr Mukhtar said she was the youngest patient ever to be operated on at St George’s – and may be the youngest to survive major abdominal surgery anywhere in the world.
“The survival rate for babies born at 23 weeks is very low, and Abi’s case is remarkable in that sense,” he said.
“However, we are naturally pleased with the outcome and the decision we collectively made to operate, which is never easy and must always be made in the best interests of the patient and their parents.