Over 1,800 people from 22 states came together on Sunday, June 28 at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to celebrate the 19th annual Family Reunion hosted by the Hospital’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment.
The reunion brings together a unique community of families who have shared similar struggles. Nearly all of the children in attendance were prenatally diagnosed with a birth defect, such as spina bifida, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or twin-twin transfusion syndrome, that had potentially devastating outcomes. Babies diagnosed with these birth defects either underwent fetal surgery to treat the condition before birth or received highly complex care immediately after birth.
“The fetal family reunion is our team’s favorite day of the year,” said N. Scott Adzick, MD, Surgeon-In-Chief at Children’s Hospital and director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. “The families gathered here today represent more than 17,000 expectant mothers from around the world to whom we’ve been able to offer hope and support since opening our Center in 1995.”
The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at CHOP is a pioneer in the field of fetal medicine, and is one of only a few programs worldwide to offer comprehensive prenatal diagnosis, fetal surgery and therapy, and the option of delivering at a leading pediatric hospital.
“Since our first reunion in 1997, attendance has grown from just ten families to over 300 at today’s event,” said Lori J. Howell, RN, MSN, Executive Director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. “Having known these children and teenagers since before they were born, watching them grow-up into amazing young men and women is truly remarkable.”
Each week at CHOP, highly sophisticated surgical teams repair spina bifida and other birth defects in the womb, place fetal shunts to treat life-threatening congenital conditions, or perform minimally invasive procedures in the mother’s uterus to treat complications in fetal twins. Of approximately 4,000 fetal surgeries done worldwide, a quarter of them have been performed at CHOP, more than at any other hospital. The Center staff has also managed thousands of pregnancies complicated by birth defects in which newborns need immediate specialized medical care or surgery after delivery.
“It is truly inspiring to see so many children, who as babies likely could have died, now running around and growing up healthy and strong,” said Adzick, “and as the field of fetal surgery and therapy continues to advance, we look forward to treating more and more babies.”
Watch the video to see highlights from this year's event.