Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Celebrates 23rd Annual Fetal Surgery Family Reunion

Published on in CHOP News

Today, more than 2,500 people, including patients and families from over 24 states, found an important reason to return to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) — the Annual Fetal Surgery Family Reunion. The event, hosted by the hospital’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis & Treatment (CFDT), provided an opportunity for those treated in the Center to reconnect with their clinicians and other families who share an indescribable bond. 

Fetal Reunion 2019 group photo Every 4½ seconds in the U.S., a baby is born with a birth defect. Many times, these conditions are so rare most parents have never heard of them, and even some clinicians may encounter only one or two cases over the course of their career. This, above all, underscores the importance of being treated at a place like the CFDT, where intervention often begins before birth and no condition is viewed as too rare. The CFDT is a pioneer in the field, increasingly treating more birth defects, such as spina bifidacongenital diaphragmatic hernia, or twin-twin transfusion syndrome, with either fetal surgery or by providing complex care immediately after birth.

“Each year the Fetal Family Reunion serves as a point of reflection and appreciation to the many families who have entrusted us with their care,” said N. Scott Adzick, MD, Surgeon-in-Chief at CHOP and Director of the CFDT. “To watch this event grow from the days when we hosted two dozen people to now well over 2,000, is a true testament to the advancements we’ve made throughout the years.”

For many, this yearly event is an opportunity for families to celebrate their own breakthroughs and reflect on how truly far they’ve come. Baylee and Louis know all too well the importance of finding the right treatment — and quickly — after receiving a prenatal diagnosis. Seconds into Baylee’s 19-week anatomy scan, she was told her unborn baby, Mason, had spina bifida. “The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Unfortunately, your daughter is not looking too good. Her brain is abnormal in every way,’” Baylee recalls, of her initial appointment near the family’s home in Florida.

Two days later, she and Louis made the 12-hour drive north to Philadelphia to be seen in the CFDT.  On Nov. 10, 2017, they underwent fetal surgery, and three months later, Mason made her entrance into the world. Today, 1-year-old Mason is thriving. “We were told in Jacksonville that Mason wouldn’t survive,” says Baylee. “The team at CHOP gave us hope and gave Mason a voice — their hard work and dedication changed Mason’s life.”

The center’s large patient volume, coupled with the diversity of patients seen each day, gives the team at CHOP a depth and breadth of experience that helps to offer the best possible care. To date, the staff has cared for more than 24,000 expectant parents from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. The CFDT is also home to the Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which last year celebrated its 10th anniversary. The SDU addresses an important need in maternal-fetal medicine by allowing mother and baby to be simultaneously cared for in one medical center by a highly specialized, multidisciplinary team.

“We meet these children before they are born,” said Lori J. Howell, DNP, MSN, RN, Executive Director of the CFDT. “To watch them return to the Reunion each year, healthy and strong, is inspirational. We look forward to treating even more babies in the future.”  


Next Steps
Pregnant Mom and Child

Choosing a Fetal Treatment Center

Know what questions to ask when considering fetal surgery so you can make an informed decision that is right for you and your baby.

Pregnant Mom and Child

What to Expect

From the moment of referral through delivery and postnatal care, your family can expect a supportive experience when you come to us with a diagnosis of a birth defect.