Saved in the Womb

Five years ago a Georgia family learned their unborn baby had a life-threatening birth defect and probably wouldn’t make it, but doctors in Miami were able to perform a miracle, in utero surgery. As 7s Diana Diaz shows us, the family just reunited with doctors, so they could meet the child they Saved in the Womb.

WSVN — It’s a sweet reunion full of hugs and kisses. The Nguyen family traveled all the way from Georgia so their 4-year-old son Nathan could finally meet the Jackson Hospital doctors who played a special role in his life.

In 2009, Georgia doctors gave the expectant couple devastating news. Their unborn son had a rare, life-threatening birth defect called a congenital diaphragmatic hernia or CDH, which is a hole in the diaphragm.

Dr. Ruben Quintero: “That hole allows organs in the abdomen to come into the chest. In doing so, they don’t let the lungs of the fetus develop.”

CDH is often impossible to treat while babies are in the womb.

Dr. Ruben Quintero: “Different approaches have been tried for over 20 years, most of the approaches have failed.”

Frank Nguyen: “All I want to know is my child going to be alive. He said about 20, 30 percent survival rate, and that’s when I lost it.”

Doctors advised the family to come to Miami where pioneer fetal surgeon, Ruben Quintero has invented a breakthrough technique to treat babies with CDH in utero.

Dr. Ruben Quintero: “We use a minimally invasive approach, so we don’t open the abdomen. We don’t open the uterus.”

Instead Dr. Quintero makes an incision about the size of a staple in the mother’s abdomen then using ultrasound and endoscopy he goes through the baby’s mouth and implants a device in the airway. That allows the baby’s lungs to grow until birth.

It was the miracle, baby Nathan needed to survive.

Dr. Ruben Quintero “The lungs grew during the pregnancy. The mother went literally to term.”

Now four years later, the Nguyens came back to Miami so the medical team could see how he’s grown into a perfectly, healthy boy.

Bao Le: “Very happy. I just wanted to come and say thank you to everybody.”

Nathan’s parents nicknamed him “Tiger” because they say the child is a fighter, and they will always call these doctors their heroes.

Frank Nguyen: “Without Dr. Quintero’s intervention we wouldn’t be here today. Nathan wouldn’t be here today. They saved Nathan.”

Diana Diaz: “Dr. Quintero performs many types of fetal surgeries and he says they are still working on perfecting the surgery for CDH.


Jackson Fetal Therapy Institute

Dr. Ruben Quintero

Fetal Surgeon

(305) 585-6636