Born with a tumour that was literally twice her size, the largest ever treated on a newborn at Mater Mothers’ Hospital , Saylor is a miracle baby.
Her parents, Rachel and Kieran Thomson wanted to share their daughter’s inspiring story on World Prematurity Day, commemorated on the 17th of November 2022.
Sacrococcygeal teratoma, a tumour that grows from a baby’s tailbone, occurs in one out of 40,000 live births and was detected during Rachel’s 20th week of pregnancy. Following the discovery, Rachel and Kieran received counsel from Mater Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit Professor Sailesh Kumar and senior neonatologist Professor Helen Liley so that they would completely understand what was going on with Saylor’s development. Apparently, sacrococcygeal teratomas divert blood from the baby, raising the risk of heart failure.
“We don’t know why the tumour grows, but it arises from embryonic germ cells and is four times more likely to occur in female infants,” Prof Kumar said.
“Saylor’s tumour was extremely large and very complex. The tumour extended into her pelvis and abdomen.
“Many of these babies do not survive the pregnancy. Essentially these tumours function like a large vascular shunt causing a lot of blood to return to the heart. In some babies the heart can’t cope with this extra volume and heart failure occurs.”
To help save Saylor’s life and reduce the risk for Rachel during the delivery, a team of 25 surgeons, neonatologists, anaesthetists, theatre staff, nurses and midwives were on board during the birth.
Dr Peter Borzi, a neonatal and paediatric surgeon at Mater Mothers’ Hospital and Queensland Children’s Hospital, performed the painstaking operation to remove the tumour and said its size was extremely rare.
The surgery involved removing part of Saylor’s tailbone to prevent the tumour growing back again.
Dr Borzi said Saylor required five blood transfusions during the surgery, but she had proven to be “strong and resilient.”
“She has made a fantastic recovery, with the help of the Mater Mothers’ Hospital and Queensland Children’s Hospital teams,” he said.
The Thomsons were able to hold their “strong-willed little fighter” 10 days after birth.
“When the social worker and surgeons first gathered to tell us she had little chance of making it due to prematurity and the tumour, I cried hysterically,” Mrs Thomson said.
“But being able to hold Saylor in my arms and know she has come through the other side is something special.”
Mater Neonatologist Dr Richard Mausling said that without the expertise and skill of Mater’s nursing staff and allied health teams, Saylor would not be alive today.
“Being born prematurely, even at 28 weeks, carries its own potential risks,” Dr Mausling said.
“Without a doubt, this was the biggest teratoma I have seen removed from any newborn baby, regardless of gestation.
Dr Mausling said Saylor had gone from “strength to strength” and had gained weight since her birth, almost reaching 3 kilograms.