“All or nothing” surgery for baby born ‘without a face’

Surgeons at Setúbal’s São Bernardo hospital are today performing what has been described as an “all or nothing” operation on 10-month-old Rodrigo, the baby ‘born without a face’ after his mother’s obstetrician failed to interpret routine ultrasounds.

The disability most threatening Rodrigo’s life is hydrocephalus (the accumulation of liquid in cavities deep inside the brain).

Despite being born without a nose, eyes and part of his cranium, it is the build-up of liquid in Rodrigo’s brain that has most concerned doctors. This deformity reached ‘crisis point’ last week when the sac that has up till now contained the liquid started ‘leaking’. Surgery became a matter of urgency.

A family member has confirmed that no-one can be sure of the outcome as the intervention today is one that “is considered violent even for an adult”. It involves inserting a valve into the cerebral ventricle that will drain the liquid into the child’s stomach (so that it can then be released from the body naturally).

Rodrigo has already surpassed all initial clinical expectations for his chances of survival.

At the outset – when the country went into shock over the medical negligence involved (click here) – doctors gave the little boy ‘a matter of hours, perhaps days’.

He has since amazed everyone with his ‘progress’, although no one appears sure yet of the extent of the lesions that he has to his brain.

This aspect also is expected to become clearer as a result of today’s surgery (see update below).

Meantime, the doctor who failed to flag any of Rodrigo’s deformities has been expelled from the ‘Ordem dos Médicos’.

Dr Artur Carvalho has been denounced in a number of other complaints involving children born with life-limiting disabilities. The public ministry has instigated a probe; Rodrigo’s parents have lodged a legal case against him, but so far nothing further has happened.

UPDATE: Surgery “went well”, according to a Facebook post by Rodrigo’s mother. The little boy will now remain under observation in hospital for the next couple of weeks.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com