Miracle Heart Procedure Saves Baby Before Birth

A Huntington couple offered a public thank-you Thursday to doctors who performed a rare heart procedure that saved the life of their son before he was even born.

Ten-month-old Dante Francis squirmed on his mom's lap as she recalled the five weeks in her life she said were the scariest she'd been through.

Thirteen weeks into her pregnancy, Suzanne Francis, 46, and her husband Robert, 50, were told the baby they had struggled to conceive was in trouble. Fluid was building around the fetus's heart -- a condition doctors said could prove fatal.

"The risk was the baby could have been in congestive heart failure or the baby's lungs would not have developed properly, and he could not have survived after birth," said Dr. Nidhi Vohra of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.

The only answer was to drain the fluid. But to do that, doctors would have to slide a needle into Suzanne Francis' stomach to the baby's heart, which was the size of a quarter. It had been done only ten times before, according to Dr. Vohra.

"I felt like, why do I have to be the guinea pig here and how do we know it's going to work?," said Suzanne Francis.

Faced with those life and death questions, the Francises wrestled with a decision on what to do. Five weeks later, they chose to go forward with the rare procedure.

"I suppose you have to do the best thing that you can do," said Robert Francis.

Using an ultrasound machine to guide them, Dr. Vohra and colleagues from the Cohen Children's Medical Center peformed an in-utero pericardiocentesis. At the time, the fetus was only seven inches long.

Doctors withdrew less than a teaspoon of fluid from the area around the fetus' heart, but that was enough.

Baby Dante was born healthy and remains so. He's a bouncy baby brother to 4-year-old Madeline, and a miracle to his parents.

"Surgically operating on a fetus, who ever heard of that? It is quite miraculous," Su


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