A four-month old baby who was diagnosed with Spina Bifida in the womb looks set to be able to walk with the aid of a splint following revolutionary treatment in Belgium.
Father of three Eoin Murphy contacted the Opinion Line onto share the story of his daughter Kaelyn who was born in August.
He said that they were informed of Kaelyn's Spina Bifida when his partner Amanda was 20 weeks pregnant.
"It turned out that she was diagnosed with Spina Bifida whilst still in the womb. So at 20 weeks we got a bit of a fright. A bit of a shock. We didn't know what to do," he recalled.
Dr Keelin O'Donoghue of the INFANT centre at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) sent Eoin and Amanda to meet with experts in the UK. An operation to help lessen the effects of Spina Bifida was arranged in Belgium at no cost to the family.
Eoin said Kaelyn was just the fifth baby in Ireland to avail of a pioneering new operation in Belgium where surgeons operate during the mum's pregnancy.
"We were told we might be eligible for a new treatment that is available at the moment. Within a week we were in London speaking to a consultant from Belgium who is one of the world's leader at this new procedure.
We found out at 20 weeks and the operation had to be down by 26 weeks or it couldn't be done. So we didn't have much time to soak it all in. It was a massive shock.
"We were told there was a 90% chance that if we didn't go ahead with the operation that Kaelyn would never walk. Katelyn is just the fifth baby from Ireland to have this done.”
Eoin, who lives in Cork, said he was amazed at the skill level involved in the procedure.
"So what they would do is Caesarean my partner Amanda, open her up, cut a little slit in the sac the baby is in turn the baby around so the opening in the back would be visible. They would sew it up and they would put her back in. And let baby try heal itself whilst in mummy's womb. That is what was done. We feel so fortunate."
The procedure in Belgium involves repairing the spine in order to prevent the loss of spinal fluid that can cause severe physical and cognitive developmental problems.
It can reduce illnesses including bladder, bowel and kidney conditions later in life, and improve walking ability. The treatment is not suitable for every pregnancy.
Eoin says he is very grateful for what was done for his family via the CUMH.
"We paid for own flights and accommodation. But this was all done on the public system. No VHI. No medical card. The hospital stay, the operation, the aftercare it was all covered by the HSE."
Spina Bifida occurs when a baby’s spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.
Meanwhile, the INFANT centre at CUMH is a research unit focused entirely on pregnancy, birth and early childhood.
Their pregnancy research targets improved screening methods and preventative treatments for mothers and babies.