Cleveland Clinic successfully performs risky fetal surgery for second time history


CLEVELAND — Cleveland Clinic is the second hospital to successfully remove a tumor off a baby’s heart in it’s mothers womb.

“I have people tell me he’s definitely a miracle that he’s a gift from God. And he’s meant to do something crazy in this world,” said Samantha Drinnon.

Ryland Drinnon is now healthy and 5 months old. But at 6 months in his mother’s womb, the odds were not in his favor.

“In April, we found out that Ryland had a cardiac teratoma, which is a tumor growing on his heart,” Samantha said.

His condition is one that doctors don’t see often.

“They’re incredibly rare. Overall, they’re only like one in 40,000 births and then to have it in this heart location is way less common,” said Darrell Cass, M.D. Director of fetal surgery and fetal care center at Cleveland Clinic.

What’s even rarer is a successful removal of that tumor—the procedure has only been done a few times worldwide and succeeded just once.

“The odds were absolutely against us and we were confident that we assembled the right team,” said Cass.

After discussing and weighing options. Doctors and Samantha agreed surgery was the way to go. On May 7, the fetal surgery was performed, taking around four hours.

“The doctor did what he might do on a baby after birth. He did a cut toward the middle of the chest to open up the rib cage to expose this little baby’s heart to help peel the tumor off of the heart,” said Cass.

The surgery was a success for the second time in history.

“Some of the nurses that were in my room, they told me that they cried and they are still crying tears over it. Just because it was the craziest thing they’ve ever experienced too,” said Samantha.

After the removal, Ryland was put back in his mother’s womb, growing 10 weeks before deciding to come out early.

“At 36 weeks and three days he made his entrance into the world,” said Samantha.

A world that he’s already impacted, and soon she’ll tell him this heroic story.

“One day he’s going to ask ‘what is this crazy spot on my chest?’ and I’m going to tell him that ‘you went through something crazy that no baby can really say they went through,’” said Samantha.

Ryland is healthy but Samantha said they still go back for blood work and to make sure his heart is working correctly.

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