Doctors in India have been stunned by the birth of a baby boy who was born alive, but with his heart outside his body.
The mother of the child, 24-year-old Priyanka Pal from Uttar Pradesh, was rushed to the labor room in the government-run Sultanpur Hospital on Wednesday. A few short hours later Pal gave birth.
The baby was born with an extremely rare condition called ectopia cordis, in which the heart is fully formed and usually somewhat functional, but is attached to the body on the outside.
The condition affects only eight in one million births, and in around 90% of those cases babies are stillborn, or die within the first three days. The only course of action that can be taken to save the child’s life would be extensive surgery at a considerable cost.
Ectopia cordis, although rare, is a congenital malformation in which the heart is abnormally located either partially or totally outside the thorax. The heart can be located anywhere from the neck to the lower abdomen, but most frequently, as in this case, it protrudes outside the chest through a split sternum.
Even though the precise cause of the rare condition is unknown, it is widely considered to be related to problems associated with the development of the baby’s lateral plate mesoderm during the early stages of pregnancy.
The baby, who has amazingly survived into its sixth day of life, has already overcome huge odds of around one in a million. Unfortunately, if the child is to have any hope of surviving for much longer, he will require extensive emergency surgery at a private hospital.
The Pal family, who are desperately poor – living on less than $5 a day – have no way of funding the operation for their son, and have reached out for financial assistance to save his life.
Mr Pal confirmed to reporters that: “The doctors said we should go to a private hospital and get surgery done. But I am a poor man. We can barely afford two square meals a day. I don’t know what to do. We are hoping that the government will help us,” he said.
He continued to share his plight: “I have put everything at stake to save my child. We are feeling so helpless. We don’t know where to go.”