Tampa Bay boy thriving following spina bifida surgery before birth

Local News

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay area boy has a bright future ahead of him despite his diagnoses of spina bifida all thanks to a new procedure here in the state of Florida.

Spina Bifida is a scary disease, and now thanks to one of only 13 fetal surgery centers in the country and now new in Florida, doctors can perform a life-changing operation on a child as early as 19 weeks after conception.

For Iesha Barros getting pregnant in 2018 with little Lukiaya was full of special moments. Among those, seeing her developing baby in the ultrasound, but one visit gave her bad news.

“They brought us in and they had it on a 3D ultrasound. They’re like, mom your son has Spina Bifida. It’s confirmed,” says Barros.

The new mom from Polk County couldn’t help but despair.

“You know, in the ’80s and the ’90s there was nothing to help kids with that,” says Barros.

There was hope though. A doctor from Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies told her about a new open fetal surgery program for spina bifida in the state.

“I think in that moment I turned a switch off. I was like, you’re his mom. However this goes you have to think about your son’s quality of life,” says Barros.

“You get a better chance to improve the functions in their legs, give them the chance to walk, as well as lower the chances of fluid buildup in the brain,” says Dr. Samer Elbabaa.

He worked with a team of up to 17 people to perform a temporary c-section on Barros. Through a small opening in the uterus, the fetus’ back is exposed and Dr. Elbabaa is able to close the skin and muscle around the exposed spinal cord.

Iesha Barros

“I like to call them twice-born babies,” says Dr. Elbabaa.

Lukiaya now has a bright future ahead.

Iesha Barros

“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have my son doing this well if it wasn’t for him and his team,” says Barros. “We love him. He loves my son. When he sees him we always have to get a photo op for the updates!”

Dr. Elbabaa has performed 13 successful surgeries in 2 years. This is personal for him as he creates long-time bonds with the babies and their families.

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