Andre' Malachi Yates

Heaven's Very Special Child

Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida Assoc. of America

Vanderbilt Hospital

Fetal Surgery


During a routine AFP test at 4 1/2 months pregnant, I found out Andre' had spina bifida. The AFP level was high but they weren't too concerned initially because the test is not always accurate, so I was sent for a sonogram at the hospital. They radiologists didn't notice anything at first until towards the end of the sonogram and the radiologist told me that it could be something coming through on the sonogram. However, when several doctors started coming in the room looking at the screen and pulling out medical books, I knew something was wrong. I was not told anything was wrong, I was just told to go back over to my ob's office and talk to my doctor, Dr. James Brown. Dr. Brown explained to me that Andre' had a mylemeningocele and he explained to me what a neural tube defect was. It was THE worst day of my life. I didn't really even know what spina bifida was.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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Family Album

We began researching spina bifida on the Internet. My mother had remembered that there was a boy who lived in our neighborhood where I grew up who had spina bifida so we called his mother. She gave us a Spina Bifida Association of America Newsletter on fetal surgery which was being performed at Vanderbilt Hospital. We emailed Vanderbilt Hospital initially because they had performed the most surgeries. We found out that the surgery costs $30,000 and because Andre's father and I were both in college, we were unable to afford this. I remember Dr. Bruner from Vanderbilt Hospital calling me and talking to me about the surgery. I told him that I did not want my baby to die and he said that if I didnít want the baby to die, then I should not have the surgery due to the risks that are involved.

We ended up at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia to be evaluated for the fetal surgery in August 1999. CHOP was willing to work with us and have what the insurance wouldn't pay written off. At CHOP I had an amniocentesis, a fetal echocardiogram, a fetal MRI and a sonogram that lasted 2 hrs. long. At the end of the day we met with Dr. Adzick. Dr. Adzick told us that the surgery would not benefit Andre' because he had no signs of hydrocephalus at that point, plus he still had excellent movement in his legs. Also, his lesion appeared to be very low, minimizing the damage that was possible. The criteria for the surgery at CHOP are stricter than at Vanderbilt, which accounts for the fewer number of surgeries. We did not have the surgery because Andre's condition looked too good to risk the possible complications that are involved.

Andre' was born at Washington Hospital Center in Washington DC on December 7, 1999 at 12:47pm. via cesarean to lessen the chance of injury to the open cord during delivery. He was then taken next door to Children's National Medical Center where Dr. Robert Keating closed his lesion the following day. Andre's lesion is a level L4-L5 (L4-L5 Prognosis: Usually needs short leg braces to help with foot positioning and push off. May need crutches or cane.). It was a rather small lesion, about the size of a golf ball. Andre' did not have movement below his legs initially. Movement began to progress after the lesion was closed. When he was 9 days old his incision started to leak spinal fluid which caused him to require a VP shunt. He never really accumulated fluid and the ventricles never became abnormally large. He was being catheterized after birth but was brought home without a cathing schedule. Andre' now seems to only have weakness in his ankles and will most likely only require ankle bracing.

Since Andre's birth, I do not see him as having spina bifida. I look past that. I have come to realize that I would not trade him for a baby without spina bifida. Having spina bifida just means that he requires extra love. When I first found out, I didn't think I could handle it. I felt I couldn't tell anyone. Andre's father was also very supportive and does not see Andre' as being different from any other child. I feel I can live a normal life with my son.

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