A Photo Tells All
A photo snapped during a risky surgery on a 21-week-old foetus caught the world's attention.
Baby Samuel had been diagnosed with spina bifida, a defect in which the developing foetus' backbone and spinal canal fail to close. The defect causes disabilities including paralysis of the legs, incontinence, learning problems and hydrocephalus, the accumulation of water on the brain. Still too small and fragile to survive outside his mother's womb, Samuel underwent a risky and unproven procedure on 19 August 1999.
Because he was so young, Samuel could not survive outside his mother's womb. During the procedure, surgeons remove the uterus from the mother, drain the amniotic fluid, perform surgery on the tiny fetus, replace everything and put the entire package back inside the mother. The procedure on Samuel took about an hour.
When his tiny hand slipped out of the incision in his mother's womb, Dr. Joseph Bruner, Samuel's surgeon, slipped his finger into the baby's fist, and a USA Today photographer snapped a picture.
1. Photographer Michael Clancy was there to capture the surgery
2. When Dr Joseph Bruner was returning Samuel to his mother's womb...
3. Samuels tiny hand slipped through the incision
In the picture, Samuel's hand looked like that of any newborn baby -- "except it was a much smaller baby. It was what people wouldn't consider viable." At 21 weeks, a foetus cannot yet survive outside the womb, but its organs are completely formed and "it looks like a tiny human," says Dr. Bruner.
Although just barely bigger than his 5-pound, 11-ounce birthweight, Samuel had started physiotherapy for his legs. His parents were much comforted when a specialist examined him days after his birth and pronounced, without prompting, that their boy would walk.
Samuel with his baby brother some years later
And winning trophies years later!