Leyna Gonzalez is now a happy, active 20-month-old.
However, when she was in her mother's womb a rare tumor was rapidly growing in her mouth.
But in the first case of its kind, UM/Jackson fetal surgeons were able to penetrate the amniotic sac with a small scope and successfully remove the tumor in utero.
The tumor can easily be seen in a routine ultrasound taken at 17 weeks.
“I see a bubble coming out of my daughter's mouth,” mother Tammy Gonzalez recalled on Thursday at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “I was like what is this? No one could really give me an answer because it's so rare and it hadn't been seen.”
Dr. Ruben Quintero, who operated on Leyna, made clear just how rare the tumor was.
“At Jackson we have approximately 5,000 deliveries a year. You would need to wait about 20 years to see a tumor like this,” he said.
Quintero developed the devices that were used in the surgery, during which the peach-sized benign growth was removed from the palate using a laser.
“The incision is very small, it's about a quarter of an inch,” Quintero said.
Doctors say there was no time to waste, as such tumors can grow rapidly, causing bleeding that can result in the death of the baby.
“He finally severed the whole thing off and I could see it floating down and it was like this huge weight had been lifted off of me,” Gonzalez said. “And it just floated away and then I could finally see her face.”
Leyna was born weighing 8 pounds and 1 ounce, the picture of health then and now. Doctors say it is unlikely the tumor will grow back.
At Jackson Memorial Hospital 150 minimally invasive fetal surgeries are performed a year. This was the first time a tumor of this type, a fetal oral teratoma, has been successfully removed in utero.
Below: Leyna as a newborn.