'Miracle' Local Doctors Feature on Gogglebox

Surgeons from St. George's shown performing operations on baby in womb

Picture: St. George's Hospital

If you tuned into Gogglebox last week you may have seen the extraordinary scenes of doctors performing surgery on unborn babies inside the womb.

It was pretty amazing stuff, and all carried out at St George’s Hospital in Tooting.

In one episode, mum Becky was referred to St George’s after a scan at her local hospital revealed that, at 19 weeks into her pregnancy, her baby had developed an extremely rare lung tumour.

Because the tumour was growing rapidly, it was putting pressure on both the baby’s heart and lungs causing it to go into heart failure.

At St George’s, the show features Professor Basky Thilaganathan and the team as they delicately laser a blood vessel which is feeding the tumour, in order to stop it growing and relieve pressure on the baby’s heart and lungs.

As the team prepares to carry out the procedure, Professor Basky explains how small the baby’s tumour is, “It’s about the size of a Malteser and the blood vessel is less than the thickness of a matchstick,” he says.

Fortunately the surgery was successful and a baby girl, Annie, was born healthy.

Becky said, “Annie is now a very happy, healthy almost six-month-old. She’s loving starting to taste new foods and is always laughing, especially at her older brother who adores her, just like we all do.

“Annie’s CCAM [tumour] is taking up a small area of her lung but so far she has been asymptomatic and is being closely monitored. We are so blessed to have Annie and are so very grateful for the care, kindness and excellence that is Professor Basky and the team at St George’s Hospital, she wouldn’t be here without them and we wouldn’t be a family of four without her.”

Becky and Richard with Annie and their older son
Becky and Richard with Annie and their older son

The three-part Channel 4 series, Baby Surgeons: Delivering Miracles, focuses on the hospital’s fetal medicine, neonatal and maternity units, with the last programme going out on Monday (10 May).

Each episode tells the story of three women who have rare and complex pregnancies.

As Professor Basky Thilaganathan, Clinical Director of the Fetal Medicine Unit, explains in the opening titles, “It’s a miracle when a sperm and egg meet, but sometimes things don’t go to plan.”

Filming took place throughout 2020 and was able to continue during the pandemic, with most filming undertaken using GoPro cameras worn by staff, temporary fixed cameras in clinical rooms, and video diaries recorded by the patients at home.

Other stories included Susie and Andy. Susie explains she has been on a long, emotional journey to become pregnant for a second time, spending thousands of pounds on IVF in order to conceive.

Susie and Andy with their triplets, Vinnie, Eddie and Max
Susie and Andy with their triplets, Vinnie, Eddie and Max

She has finally fallen pregnant with triplets and is now 16-weeks pregnant. However, there’s a problem and she has to be closely monitored as two of her babies, who are identical twins, may have a life-threatening blood sharing condition.

Usually the placenta is shared equally, but when it’s not, one baby can receive too much blood and the other too little. This condition is called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, or TTTS.

If TTTS develops and the team does not treat it, then there is a 90 per cent chance Susie will miscarry the whole pregnancy, losing all three babies fairly rapidly.

The team treats the condition by using a laser beam to seal off some of the blood vessels in the placenta shared by the twins, so that both babies receive a more equal supply of blood.

The surgery is successful and Susie’s triplets are born healthy at her local hospital.

Susie and Andy said, “Vinnie, Eddie and Max are seven months old and keeping Susie, Andy and Henry busy. They’re loving real food, starting to get on the move and finding their voices.

“Henry is loving being a big brother for the first, second and third time all at once. This entirely new kind of joy in the house wouldn’t be possible without Professor Basky and the team at St George’s. Thank you.”

Sadly, despite medical intervention, not all pregnancies go to plan – and together with Channel 4 and Tommy’s charity, St George’s is also raising awareness and breaking the silence surrounding baby loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth.

For support, you can visit their website.

Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter

May 10, 2021