In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

April 15, 2014

An amazing detour on the path to a joyous moment

By Elizabeth Harty

Jamie Snow holding baby Jezzabella.Had Jezzabella Snow been born a few years earlier, her life might be very different. Her mother, Jamie Snow, tells the Mankato Free Press that all had been going well with her fourth pregnancy until an ultrasound during her 25th week caused her doctors at Mayo Clinic Health System in Lake Crystal some concern.

Snow's family medicine physician, Jamie Johannes, D.O., noticed something on the ultrasound and conferred with Jason DeWitt, M.D. After some debate, the two decided it would be best for Snow to be transferred to Mayo Clinic in Rochester. There, doctors confirmed what Drs. Johannes and DeWitt had suspected: Little Jezzabella had spina bifida, a birth defect in which, according to Mayo's website, "a portion of the neural tube fails to develop or close properly, causing defects in the spinal cord and in the bones of the backbone."

In the past, such a diagnosis would usually require surgery soon after birth. But as the Free Press reports, surgeons at Mayo Clinic have been perfecting a surgical technique that allows them to operate on babies with spina bifida while they're still in the womb. That is helping to limit the negative effects associated with spina bifida. In Snow's case, doctors at Mayo asked if she'd be interested in participating in a study trial for the new procedure. She says she and her husband, Scott, "thought about the surgery for a few days" and decided they wanted in if they were candidates. "I went back to Rochester and was tested for two days to check on my health and the health of the baby," Snow says. "Then we met with all of the doctors who would be involved in the surgery. We got a 'yes' from everyone."

Portrait of Jezzabella SnowWhen it came time for the surgery, Mayo's Norman Davies, M.B.B.S., M.D., and Nick Wetjen, M.D., "cut a half-moon shaped incision" across her stomach to give them access to her uterus. They then made another small incision into her uterus and filled it with water to make her baby "float to the top" before positioning the baby's body so that her spinal defect was in front of them. From there, they performed a procedure that allowed them to essentially cover up and repair the portion of her spinal cord that had failed to close properly.

Snow gave birth to baby Jezzabella at Mayo Clinic in Rochester on Jan. 7, 2014, and she tells the Free Press that both she and her baby couldn't be doing better. "She's kicking her legs, curling her toes, and peeing and pooping without needing assistance, which all is looking positive," Snow tells the newspaper. "She's developing like a regular baby who has never had a surgery."

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Tags: Innovation, Patient Stories

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