Spina bifida baby can't be helped by U.S. doctors

Rachel and Pat Strong travelled to Philadelphia, Pa., this week, hoping to have a newly developed surgery performed on their baby with spina bifida, but the couple received some disappointing news.
In an email to CBC News, the new mom reported that tests performed on Tuesday uncovered bleeding in the baby's brain, leading doctors to suggest she was not a candidate for the surgery. (CBC News)

Rachel and Pat Strong of Windsor have received some disappointing news about their unborn baby daughter who is afflicted with spina bifida.

In an email to CBC News, the mom reported that tests performed in Philadelphia on Tuesday uncovered bleeding in the baby's brain, leading doctors to suggest the fetus is not an appropriate candidate for a recently developed surgical procedure.

It was the first time OHIP had approved the out-of-country operation. It was hoped the in-utero procedure could limit damage to the baby girl's spinal cord and give her a better chance at being able to walk once she's born.

Spina bifida is a birth defect in which parts of the spinal cord protrude from their protective vertebral column causing mobility and bowel issues, and sometimes learning disabilities.

"It's another complication.  No one can tell us how it will affect our daughter in the long run, and [it's] another thing we will worry about without being able to do anything about it," wrote Strong. "It's such a helpless feeling."

Strong hopes their efforts to have the surgery covered by OHIP won't be wasted and that another family might one day benefit from OHIP's decision.

The plan now is to deliver the baby, already named Payton, in London, Ont., and perform the surgery on the baby 24 to 48 hours later. Payton will have to remain in neonatal intensive care and may also need a shunt to drain the excess fluid in her brain, Strong said.