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‘I knew I was in labour’ – why are women being turned away from hospital during childbirth?

As a number of women recount how they were mistakenly told to go home and wait, before giving birth on the pavement or in a lift, experts warn that more investment in early-labour care is needed

Some women who have been turned away from maternity units have soon after given birth in the street.


Some women who have been turned away from maternity units have soon after given birth in the street. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Because her first baby had arrived quickly, Lizzie Hines was told at all her antenatal midwife appointments that she should go to hospital as soon as she recognised the first signs of labour. So, a couple of hours after she first felt twinges, cramps and contractions, she and her husband set off for a hospital in central London, but when she arrived, the midwife who examined her told her she wasn’t in labour. “I knew that not to be true,” she says. “I knew I was in labour.”

They were told to go home for a few hours; Hines asked if she could stay, but was told she couldn’t unless she wanted to wait in the corridor. Her husband booked them into a nearby hotel to wait it out, and they walked around the corner, with Hines, wearing pyjamas and a coat, steadying herself against the walls of the building with each contraction. It was 7am.

“We checked in at the hotel and I was probably there all of about 15 to 20 minutes when I said to my husband, ‘I’m having the baby. This is happening.’ I couldn’t really talk to him, but I could feel this was imminent. He said: ‘No, I’m going to get you [to hospital], we can’t do this here.’” He carried her across the road, and as another contraction came, Hines sat down on the street. “Apparently I let out a huge noise, but I don’t remember that at all. People came over, and I do remember ankles starting to appear around me.”

Then, she says, her son Louis “came out, and I remember feeling every limb fly out of my body and on to the floor and into my pyjamas. Someone in the crowd reassured me, saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to get to the hospital, you’re going to be fine’. I said: ‘No, he’s here.’ They opened my pyjamas and saw him red and squirming, attached to me with the umbilical cord. He wasn’t screaming at first. Someone said put him against you so I lifted up my T-shirt and put him against me.”

She doesn’t remember much of what happened next, but last month she pieced her son’s birth together after a post she put on Facebook to search for the strangers who helped the family in December 2016 went viral. People have told her that her waters were running down the street, that someone in the crowd had tried to film her giving birth and a fight broke out to stop them. She didn’t even know when Louis was born – she was told it was 7.30am.

Lizzie Hines, in the street outside a hospital, moments after giving birth to her son Louis.


Lizzie Hines, in the street outside a hospital, moments after giving birth to her son Louis. Photograph: Courtesy of Lizzie Hines

The temperature was zero degrees. Some people in the crowd who helped her worked at the hospital. Hines and her newborn were taken there, using a wheelchair. She had a few stitches but all was well, and they went home that afternoon.

It was, she says, “a wonderful experience. He was healthy, I felt physically and mentally good about it, and I felt really joyful – I think the hormones were a huge part of that.” But, she adds: “There is also the thought that there was a misjudgment there.” It was a straightforward birth. “I feel very fortunate,” she says. “He didn’t have the cord round his neck or any immediate problems.”

Michelle Booth had a similar experience in 2013 with the birth of her son George, her first baby, who arrived in a hotel bathroom across the road from the hospital she had been turned away from a few hours earlier. She had been told she wasn’t dilated at all, and to go home. “The really stressful thing about it was I felt I was really on top of it, and then all of a sudden people were telling me I wasn’t in labour. When you haven’t had a baby before you don’t know. It freaked me out – if this wasn’t labour then what was it going to be like?”

Nearly three hours later, she called the hospital for advice and to ask if she should come in, but they told her to take a paracetamol. Soon afterwards, she gave birth in the hotel room. Like Hines, she says, it was a “really positive experience”, but she puts that down to being very prepared before the birth, having practised hypnobirthing and reading a lot about the birth process. “I think if I hadn’t done that, and had that experience, it would have been really scary.” She did, however, lose a lot of blood, and she and George were taken to hospital by ambulance quickly afterwards.

It was frustrating not to have been listened to, she says. “You’re having an experience and someone is telling you that it isn’t the experience you’re having. If you’ve never had a baby before, you’re reliant on the professionals giving you advice. I suppose what I’ve learned is the whole thing about birth is based on data.”

Being turned away in early labour, only to give birth soon afterwards, is “a symptom of something that affects women in maternity care a lot, which is not being listened to,” says Rebecca Schiller, chief executive of the charity Birthrights. “One of the problems we’re keen to address is changing culture in maternity care, so that women’s perceptions, experiences and information about their own bodies, own pregnancies and own labour is taken seriously. It’s something that’s important from a safety point of view. It’s been shown that some women who have had serious problems like stillbirths have reported worries and concerns, turned up to their maternity unit several times and been ignored, and gone to have tragic consequences.”

It can also be distressing to be told that you are not in labour when you feel you are, she says. “We know that how women feel giving birth can have an impact on their emotional wellbeing for quite a long time. It’s important for safety, and it’s important for women’s entry into motherhood and how they go on to feel about themselves and their experience of birth that they’re listened to.”

Michelle Booth and her son George.
Michelle Booth and her son George. Photograph: Courtesy of Michelle Booth

For Antonia Kennedy, who lives in the north-east, the birth of her fourth child, Oscar, in December 2016, was distressing. “Once you’ve had three other children, you know when you’re in labour,” she says. “[The midwife] said I was 1cm dilated and I should maybe go shopping – there was a shopping centre not far from the hospital – for a couple of hours.” She asked if she could stay at the hospital, but “they were adamant that I couldn’t. I said I really didn’t want to go back home. I felt ‘thank god we’re here’ but they said they wouldn’t let us stay.”

By then, she had been having contractions for a couple of hours, and at the hospital they were so strong, she couldn’t move. Her partner drove them the 15 minutes home, where they stayed for five minutes, before heading back to hospital. She made it through the doors, but gave birth to her son in the hospital lift. Her partner caught him. There were people watching and she says she felt really embarrassed. Since then, she has been plagued by thoughts about what might have happened if her partner had not caught the baby, if he’d hit the floor, and she believes the experience has contributed to the anxiety she has felt since the birth.Labour is unpredictable, acknowledges Schiller. “In my second labour, I went suddenly from not really feeling I was in labour to having a baby 40 minutes later. Sometimes you can’t predict those things and there will be women who give birth very quickly, and won’t be able to make it to a unit in time. But I think if a woman is at a unit and that’s where she feels safe, and she says like she feels like she’s in labour, it’s important that medical professionals don’t just rely on their traditional observations and vaginal examinations. It can be very easy to reduce a woman’s labour to measurements and standards, but we’re individuals and our bodies don’t often play that game.”

Early labour should be a time when women can feel safe, and while many women prefer to be at home, for some women, being in hospital might provide more reassurance, particularly if the hospital is not close to home, or an uncomfortable drive away.

The Royal College of Midwives declined to comment, but some hospitals have invested in early labour care. At Chelsea and Westminster hospital, they have a room called the Nest, which opened in 2012 and can be used by women in the early stages of labour, before going on to the hospital’s midwifery-led unit, or the labour ward if they choose to. There is low lighting, comfortable seating, such as beanbags, and relaxing music. It is staffed by doulas, who support women at this stage, rather than (expensively) trained midwives.

“There isn’t a lot of investment in maternity services at the moment,” says Schiller, but a simple, comfortable room might not be unreasonable to expect. “It’s a vulnerable time,” says Hines. “There is so much care taken by the NHS during pregnancy and after the birth, to such a high level of expertise, but for this splice of time in early labour, for maybe two hours or 10 hours, that doesn’t seem to be considered part of the care.”

Have you had a difficult experience going into labour? Please comment below.

Baby girl survives after being born with heart outside her body, in UK first

A baby girl born with her heart outside her body is believed to be the first in the UK to survive with the extremely rare condition after undergoing three operations, the first within an hour of her birth.

At a nine-week scan, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was discovered to have the condition ectopia cordis, with her heart and part of her stomach growing externally.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised “termination” was the only option, they said.

But three weeks after her premature birth, by caesarean section on 22 November, Vanellope, who is named after a Disney princess, has survived three operations at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, to move her heart back inside her chest.

Experts, including the consultant cardiologist, have said they do not know of another case in the UK where a baby has survived such a condition.

Describing their emotions on first being told of her chances, Findlay said: “I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems.”

Wilkins said: “We still didn’t know what we were looking at when we saw the scan, it looked like a little hamster with a hat on.”

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and worried throughout the whole pregnancy.

Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital.


Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital. Photograph: University Hospitals of Leiceste/PA

The couple said they were told the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial as her ability to breathe would be essential. “But when she came out and she came out crying, that was it. The relief fell out of me,” said her mother. Her father said: “Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off – it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. Consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre, where she had been born, to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit where she was due to stay for at least several weeks while she got strong enough and big enough for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered with her skin.

After seven days, her chest was opened a bit more to create space to allow her heart to fit back in. In the average baby, there is an indent on the left lung which leaves space for the heart, but she did not have this. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity.


I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother

The latest operation involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it to join in the middle of her body. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

Babies born with the condition – one estimate is five to eight per million – have less than a 10% chance of survival.

Branko Mimic, the lead surgeon at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, said: “Cases such as Vanellope’s, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this.”

Frances Bu’Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she had described the chances of the baby surviving as remote. “I had seen one in foetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the “chances of survival are next to nothing”. After the birth, she said, “I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there was I, about to give up. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate though, I’m so glad.”

Wilkins said: “I lost hope a few times, if she didn’t move I’d say: ‘Has she moved today?’ and then, the next thing, she’d suddenly move and you’d go: ‘Oh she’s heard me’.”

They named their daughter after a character in the film Wreck-it Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Wilkins said: “Some mums still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those mums out there a chance.” His daughter’s name was a reminder, he said, “that there is that hope”.

Baby girl survives after being born with heart outside her body, in UK first

A baby girl born with her heart outside her body is believed to be the first in the UK to survive with the extremely rare condition after undergoing three operations, the first within an hour of her birth.

At a nine-week scan, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was discovered to have the condition ectopia cordis, with her heart and part of her stomach growing externally.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised “termination” was the only option, they said.

But three weeks after her premature birth, by caesarean section on 22 November, Vanellope, who is named after a Disney princess, has survived three operations at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, to move her heart back inside her chest.

Experts, including the consultant cardiologist, have said they do not know of another case in the UK where a baby has survived such a condition.

Describing their emotions on first being told of her chances, Findlay said: “I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems.”

Wilkins said: “We still didn’t know what we were looking at when we saw the scan, it looked like a little hamster with a hat on.”

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and worried throughout the whole pregnancy.

Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital.


Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital. Photograph: University Hospitals of Leiceste/PA

The couple said they were told the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial as her ability to breathe would be essential. “But when she came out and she came out crying, that was it. The relief fell out of me,” said her mother. Her father said: “Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off – it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. Consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre, where she had been born, to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit where she was due to stay for at least several weeks while she got strong enough and big enough for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered with her skin.

After seven days, her chest was opened a bit more to create space to allow her heart to fit back in. In the average baby, there is an indent on the left lung which leaves space for the heart, but she did not have this. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity.


I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother

The latest operation involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it to join in the middle of her body. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

Babies born with the condition – one estimate is five to eight per million – have less than a 10% chance of survival.

Branko Mimic, the lead surgeon at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, said: “Cases such as Vanellope’s, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this.”

Frances Bu’Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she had described the chances of the baby surviving as remote. “I had seen one in foetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the “chances of survival are next to nothing”. After the birth, she said, “I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there there was I, about to give up. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate though, I’m so glad.”

Wilkins said: “I lost hope a few times, if she didn’t move I’d say: ‘Has she moved today?’ and then, the next thing, she’d suddenly move and you’d go: ‘Oh she’s heard me’.”

They named their daughter after a character in the film Wreck-it Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Wilkins said: “Some mums still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those mums out there a chance.” His daughter’s name was a reminder, he said, “that there is that hope”.

Baby girl survives after being born with heart outside her body, in UK first

A baby girl born with her heart outside her body is believed to be the first in the UK to survive with the extremely rare condition after undergoing three operations, the first within an hour of her birth.

At a nine-week scan, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was discovered to have the condition ectopia cordis, with her heart and part of her stomach growing externally.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised “termination” was the only option, they said.

But three weeks after her premature birth, by caesarean section on 22 November, Vanellope, who is named after a Disney princess, has survived three operations at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, to move her heart back inside her chest.

Experts, including the consultant cardiologist, have said they do not know of another case in the UK where a baby has survived such a condition.

Describing their emotions on first being told of her chances, Findlay said: “I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems.”

Wilkins said: “We still didn’t know what we were looking at when we saw the scan, it looked like a little hamster with a hat on.”

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and worried throughout the whole pregnancy.

Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital.


Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital. Photograph: University Hospitals of Leiceste/PA

The couple said they were told the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial as her ability to breathe would be essential. “But when she came out and she came out crying, that was it. The relief fell out of me,” said her mother. Her father said: “Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off – it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. Consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre, where she had been born, to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit where she was due to stay for at least several weeks while she got strong enough and big enough for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered with her skin.

After seven days, her chest was opened a bit more to create space to allow her heart to fit back in. In the average baby, there is an indent on the left lung which leaves space for the heart, but she did not have this. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity.


I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother

The latest operation involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it to join in the middle of her body. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

Babies born with the condition – one estimate is five to eight per million – have less than a 10% chance of survival.

Branko Mimic, the lead surgeon at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, said: “Cases such as Vanellope’s, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this.”

Frances Bu’Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she had described the chances of the baby surviving as remote. “I had seen one in foetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the “chances of survival are next to nothing”. After the birth, she said, “I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there there was I, about to give up. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate though, I’m so glad.”

Wilkins said: “I lost hope a few times, if she didn’t move I’d say: ‘Has she moved today?’ and then, the next thing, she’d suddenly move and you’d go: ‘Oh she’s heard me’.”

They named their daughter after a character in the film Wreck-it Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Wilkins said: “Some mums still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those mums out there a chance.” His daughter’s name was a reminder, he said, “that there is that hope”.

Baby girl survives after being born with heart outside her body, in UK first

A baby girl born with her heart outside her body is believed to be the first in the UK to survive with the extremely rare condition after undergoing three operations, the first within an hour of her birth.

At a nine-week scan, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was discovered to have the condition ectopia cordis, with her heart and part of her stomach growing externally.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised “termination” was the only option, they said.

But three weeks after her premature birth, by caesarean section on 22 November, Vanellope, who is named after a Disney princess, has survived three operations at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, to move her heart back inside her chest.

Experts, including the consultant cardiologist, have said they do not know of another case in the UK where a baby has survived such a condition.

Describing their emotions on first being told of her chances, Findlay said: “I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems.”

Wilkins said: “We still didn’t know what we were looking at when we saw the scan, it looked like a little hamster with a hat on.”

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and worried throughout the whole pregnancy.

Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital.


Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital. Photograph: University Hospitals of Leiceste/PA

The couple said they were told the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial as her ability to breathe would be essential. “But when she came out and she came out crying, that was it. The relief fell out of me,” said her mother. Her father said: “Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off – it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. Consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre, where she had been born, to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit where she was due to stay for at least several weeks while she got strong enough and big enough for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered with her skin.

After seven days, her chest was opened a bit more to create space to allow her heart to fit back in. In the average baby, there is an indent on the left lung which leaves space for the heart, but she did not have this. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity.


I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother

The latest operation involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it to join in the middle of her body. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

Babies born with the condition – one estimate is five to eight per million – have less than a 10% chance of survival.

Branko Mimic, the lead surgeon at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, said: “Cases such as Vanellope’s, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this.”

Frances Bu’Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she had described the chances of the baby surviving as remote. “I had seen one in foetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the “chances of survival are next to nothing”. After the birth, she said, “I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there there was I, about to give up. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate though, I’m so glad.”

Wilkins said: “I lost hope a few times, if she didn’t move I’d say: ‘Has she moved today?’ and then, the next thing, she’d suddenly move and you’d go: ‘Oh she’s heard me’.”

They named their daughter after a character in the film Wreck-it Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Wilkins said: “Some mums still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those mums out there a chance.” His daughter’s name was a reminder, he said, “that there is that hope”.

Baby girl survives after being born with heart outside her body, in UK first

A baby girl born with her heart outside her body is believed to be the first in the UK to survive with the extremely rare condition after undergoing three operations, the first within an hour of her birth.

At a nine-week scan, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was discovered to have the condition ectopia cordis, with her heart and part of her stomach growing externally.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised “termination” was the only option, they said.

But three weeks after her premature birth, by caesarean section on 22 November, Vanellope, who is named after a Disney princess, has survived three operations at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, to move her heart back inside her chest.

Experts, including the consultant cardiologist, have said they do not know of another case in the UK where a baby has survived such a condition.

Describing their emotions on first being told of her chances, Findlay said: “I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems.”

Wilkins said: “We still didn’t know what we were looking at when we saw the scan, it looked like a little hamster with a hat on.”

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and worried throughout the whole pregnancy.

Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital.


Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital. Photograph: University Hospitals of Leiceste/PA

The couple said they were told the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial as her ability to breathe would be essential. “But when she came out and she came out crying, that was it. The relief fell out of me,” said her mother. Her father said: “Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off – it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. Consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre, where she had been born, to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit where she was due to stay for at least several weeks while she got strong enough and big enough for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered with her skin.

After seven days, her chest was opened a bit more to create space to allow her heart to fit back in. In the average baby, there is an indent on the left lung which leaves space for the heart, but she did not have this. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity.


I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother

The latest operation involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it to join in the middle of her body. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

Babies born with the condition – one estimate is five to eight per million – have less than a 10% chance of survival.

Branko Mimic, the lead surgeon at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, said: “Cases such as Vanellope’s, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this.”

Frances Bu’Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she had described the chances of the baby surviving as remote. “I had seen one in foetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the “chances of survival are next to nothing”. After the birth, she said, “I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there there was I, about to give up. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate though, I’m so glad.”

Wilkins said: “I lost hope a few times, if she didn’t move I’d say: ‘Has she moved today?’ and then, the next thing, she’d suddenly move and you’d go: ‘Oh she’s heard me’.”

They named their daughter after a character in the film Wreck-it Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Wilkins said: “Some mums still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those mums out there a chance.” His daughter’s name was a reminder, he said, “that there is that hope”.

Baby girl survives after being born with heart outside her body, in UK first

A baby girl born with her heart outside her body is believed to be the first in the UK to survive with the extremely rare condition after undergoing three operations, the first within an hour of her birth.

At a nine-week scan, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was discovered to have the condition ectopia cordis, with her heart and part of her stomach growing externally.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised “termination” was the only option, they said.

But three weeks after her premature birth, by caesarean section on 22 November, Vanellope, who is named after a Disney princess, has survived three operations at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, to move her heart back inside her chest.

Experts, including the consultant cardiologist, have said they do not know of another case in the UK where a baby has survived such a condition.

Describing their emotions on first being told of her chances, Findlay said: “I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems.”

Wilkins said: “We still didn’t know what we were looking at when we saw the scan, it looked like a little hamster with a hat on.”

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and worried throughout the whole pregnancy.

Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital.


Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital. Photograph: University Hospitals of Leiceste/PA

The couple said they were told the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial as her ability to breathe would be essential. “But when she came out and she came out crying, that was it. The relief fell out of me,” said her mother. Her father said: “Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off – it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. Consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre, where she had been born, to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit where she was due to stay for at least several weeks while she got strong enough and big enough for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered with her skin.

After seven days, her chest was opened a bit more to create space to allow her heart to fit back in. In the average baby, there is an indent on the left lung which leaves space for the heart, but she did not have this. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity.


I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother

The latest operation involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it to join in the middle of her body. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

Babies born with the condition – one estimate is five to eight per million – have less than a 10% chance of survival.

Branko Mimic, the lead surgeon at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, said: “Cases such as Vanellope’s, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this.”

Frances Bu’Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she had described the chances of the baby surviving as remote. “I had seen one in foetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the “chances of survival are next to nothing”. After the birth, she said, “I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there there was I, about to give up. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate though, I’m so glad.”

Wilkins said: “I lost hope a few times, if she didn’t move I’d say: ‘Has she moved today?’ and then, the next thing, she’d suddenly move and you’d go: ‘Oh she’s heard me’.”

They named their daughter after a character in the film Wreck-it Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Wilkins said: “Some mums still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those mums out there a chance.” His daughter’s name was a reminder, he said, “that there is that hope”.

Baby girl survives after being born with heart outside her body, in UK first

A baby girl born with her heart outside her body is believed to be the first in the UK to survive with the extremely rare condition after undergoing three operations, the first within an hour of her birth.

At a nine-week scan, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was discovered to have the condition ectopia cordis, with her heart and part of her stomach growing externally.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised “termination” was the only option, they said.

But three weeks after her premature birth, by caesarean section on 22 November, Vanellope, who is named after a Disney princess, has survived three operations at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, to move her heart back inside her chest.

Experts, including the consultant cardiologist, have said they do not know of another case in the UK where a baby has survived such a condition.

Describing their emotions on first being told of her chances, Findlay said: “I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems.”

Wilkins said: “We still didn’t know what we were looking at when we saw the scan, it looked like a little hamster with a hat on.”

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and worried throughout the whole pregnancy.

Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital.


Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital. Photograph: University Hospitals of Leiceste/PA

The couple said they were told the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial as her ability to breathe would be essential. “But when she came out and she came out crying, that was it. The relief fell out of me,” said her mother. Her father said: “Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off – it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. Consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre, where she had been born, to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit where she was due to stay for at least several weeks while she got strong enough and big enough for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered with her skin.

After seven days, her chest was opened a bit more to create space to allow her heart to fit back in. In the average baby, there is an indent on the left lung which leaves space for the heart, but she did not have this. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity.


I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother

The latest operation involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it to join in the middle of her body. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

Babies born with the condition – one estimate is five to eight per million – have less than a 10% chance of survival.

Branko Mimic, the lead surgeon at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, said: “Cases such as Vanellope’s, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this.”

Frances Bu’Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she had described the chances of the baby surviving as remote. “I had seen one in foetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the “chances of survival are next to nothing”. After the birth, she said, “I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there there was I, about to give up. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate though, I’m so glad.”

Wilkins said: “I lost hope a few times, if she didn’t move I’d say: ‘Has she moved today?’ and then, the next thing, she’d suddenly move and you’d go: ‘Oh she’s heard me’.”

They named their daughter after a character in the film Wreck-it Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Wilkins said: “Some mums still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those mums out there a chance.” His daughter’s name was a reminder, he said, “that there is that hope”.

Baby girl survives after being born with heart outside her body, in UK first

A baby girl born with her heart outside her body is believed to be the first in the UK to survive with the extremely rare condition after undergoing three operations, the first within an hour of her birth.

At a nine-week scan, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was discovered to have the condition ectopia cordis, with her heart and part of her stomach growing externally.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised “termination” was the only option, they said.

But three weeks after her premature birth, by caesarean section on 22 November, Vanellope, who is named after a Disney princess, has survived three operations at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, to move her heart back inside her chest.

Experts, including the consultant cardiologist, have said they do not know of another case in the UK where a baby has survived such a condition.

Describing their emotions on first being told of her chances, Findlay said: “I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems.”

Wilkins said: “We still didn’t know what we were looking at when we saw the scan, it looked like a little hamster with a hat on.”

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and worried throughout the whole pregnancy.

Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital.


Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital. Photograph: University Hospitals of Leiceste/PA

The couple said they were told the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial as her ability to breathe would be essential. “But when she came out and she came out crying, that was it. The relief fell out of me,” said her mother. Her father said: “Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off – it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. Consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre, where she had been born, to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit where she was due to stay for at least several weeks while she got strong enough and big enough for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered with her skin.

After seven days, her chest was opened a bit more to create space to allow her heart to fit back in. In the average baby, there is an indent on the left lung which leaves space for the heart, but she did not have this. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity.


I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother

The latest operation involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it to join in the middle of her body. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

Babies born with the condition – one estimate is five to eight per million – have less than a 10% chance of survival.

Branko Mimic, the lead surgeon at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, said: “Cases such as Vanellope’s, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this.”

Frances Bu’Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she had described the chances of the baby surviving as remote. “I had seen one in foetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the “chances of survival are next to nothing”. After the birth, she said, “I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there there was I, about to give up. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate though, I’m so glad.”

Wilkins said: “I lost hope a few times, if she didn’t move I’d say: ‘Has she moved today?’ and then, the next thing, she’d suddenly move and you’d go: ‘Oh she’s heard me’.”

They named their daughter after a character in the film Wreck-it Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Wilkins said: “Some mums still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those mums out there a chance.” His daughter’s name was a reminder, he said, “that there is that hope”.

Baby girl survives after being born with heart outside her body, in UK first

A baby girl born with her heart outside her body is believed to be the first in the UK to survive with the extremely rare condition after undergoing three operations, the first within an hour of her birth.

At a nine-week scan, Vanellope Hope Wilkins was discovered to have the condition ectopia cordis, with her heart and part of her stomach growing externally.

Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, were advised “termination” was the only option, they said.

But three weeks after her premature birth, by caesarean section on 22 November, Vanellope, who is named after a Disney princess, has survived three operations at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, to move her heart back inside her chest.

Experts, including the consultant cardiologist, have said they do not know of another case in the UK where a baby has survived such a condition.

Describing their emotions on first being told of her chances, Findlay said: “I burst into tears. When we did the research, we just couldn’t physically look because the condition came with so many problems.”

Wilkins said: “We still didn’t know what we were looking at when we saw the scan, it looked like a little hamster with a hat on.”

They decided against termination, preferring to leave it to nature, and worried throughout the whole pregnancy.

Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital.


Vanellope Wilkins undergoes corrective surgery, in what is believed to be a UK first, at Glenfield Hospital. Photograph: University Hospitals of Leiceste/PA

The couple said they were told the first 10 minutes after birth were crucial as her ability to breathe would be essential. “But when she came out and she came out crying, that was it. The relief fell out of me,” said her mother. Her father said: “Twenty minutes went by and she was still shouting her head off – it made us so joyful and teary.”

Vanellope has undergone three operations carried out by a team of 50 staff at Glenfield Hospital. Immediately after her birth, she was wrapped in a sterile plastic bag. Consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack said: “At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre, where she had been born, to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest.”

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit where she was due to stay for at least several weeks while she got strong enough and big enough for her heart to be placed fully within her chest and covered with her skin.

After seven days, her chest was opened a bit more to create space to allow her heart to fit back in. In the average baby, there is an indent on the left lung which leaves space for the heart, but she did not have this. Over two weeks, her heart naturally made its way back into her chest as a result of gravity.


I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate.

Naomi Findlay, Vanellope’s mother

The latest operation involved taking skin from under her arms and moving it to join in the middle of her body. Surgeons had created a mesh that protected her heart as she did not have ribs or a sternum. As her organs fight for space inside her chest, she is still attached to a ventilation machine.

Babies born with the condition – one estimate is five to eight per million – have less than a 10% chance of survival.

Branko Mimic, the lead surgeon at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre, said: “Cases such as Vanellope’s, where everything else appears essentially normal, are even rarer, and whilst it would seem more hopeful she will do well, it is therefore almost impossible to be confident of this.”

Frances Bu’Lock, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, said she had described the chances of the baby surviving as remote. “I had seen one in foetal life around 20 years ago but that pregnancy was ended.”

Findlay said all the way through her pregnancy that she was warned the “chances of survival are next to nothing”. After the birth, she said, “I felt guilty for thinking negative thoughts because here she is fighting, and there there was I, about to give up. I’m glad I stuck to my guns not to terminate though, I’m so glad.”

Wilkins said: “I lost hope a few times, if she didn’t move I’d say: ‘Has she moved today?’ and then, the next thing, she’d suddenly move and you’d go: ‘Oh she’s heard me’.”

They named their daughter after a character in the film Wreck-it Ralph. “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part of her name is the fact that she has brought us hope, and my mum and dad, because even they, as grandparents, thought they would never get to see their granddaughter,” said Findlay.

Wilkins said: “Some mums still terminate and if we can get out there that there is a hope, and that it can be done, then it’s giving all those mums out there a chance.” His daughter’s name was a reminder, he said, “that there is that hope”.