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We have seen medicine improve leaps and bounds over the past decade. Doctors can now perform life-saving surgeries that would have been impossible before.

These improvements are especially noteworthy in the realm of childbirth. Remember the baby who was removed from the womb for surgery before being sewn back inside to be born a second time? Truly unbelievable. Now doctors are stunning us once again with a heart surgery performed on a baby still inside the womb!

This is not the first time Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has performed “fetal surgery,” an operation on a baby inside the womb. In fact, CHOP has made a name for itself around the world with these surgeries. But a recent operation on an unborn little boy from Uruguay, named Juan, is making history as only the second ever successful fetal heart surgery.

It all started when mom Cecilia Cella and dad Pablo Paladino went in for a routine ultrasound when Cecilia was 5 months pregnant. The ultrasound showed a mass on the baby’s heart, and doctors quickly identified it as a rare and usually fatal tumor.

Doctors in Uruguay reached out to CHOP for help, and Cecilia and Pablo were soon rushed from South America to Philadelphia.

“His heart at the time of surgery was the size of a peanut. The size of the tumor was three-times the size of the heart,” explained Dr. Jack Rychik, the director of the Fetal Heart Program at CHOP. “Had we waited an additional day, we probably would have been too late.”

Cecilia and Pablo arrived at CHOP in October when the fetal surgery took place. On December 11th, Juan was born and immediately underwent a second heart surgery.

Now, Juan is 3 months old, healthy, and on his way back home to Uruguay where he is already a local celebrity. The family was thrilled to be returning home and is forever grateful for the team in Philadelphia who saved their child’s life.

“Crazy, unbelievable,” said Celia. “I look at him, I can’t believe what they did here. It’s awesome.”