Premmie baby born four months early survives major abdominal surgery

Abi Peters is the youngest patient to survive major abdominal surgery, after she was born at 23 weeks gestation.
Abi Peters is the youngest patient to survive major abdominal surgery, after she was born at 23 weeks gestation. Photo: BBC News

A baby girl born at 23 weeks gestation is home in her parents' arms, four months after becoming the youngest person in the world to survive major abdominal surgery.

When she entered the world in October 2016, Abiageal Peters weighed a tiny 609g. Her mother, Louise, 32, had gone into labour four months early, giving birth at St Peter's Hospital in Surrey, reports the BBC. 

Abi, who was the size of a hand, had a ruptured intestine, and her stomach turned black after she was born. The little girl was suffering from a condition called perforated necrotising enterocolitis, which was killing her intestinal tissue.

Little Abi was transferred to St George's Hospital, London, where surgeons operated on her stomach when she was just six days old. Her chances of survival were estimated at "less than 10 per cent".

"It was like a crash," Mrs Peters told the BBC. "It was suddenly, 'oh no, she has to go through this."

Acknowledging that their daughter "may not survive the surgery, but definitely wouldn't survive without it," Mrs Peters and her husband, Dave, "signed on the dotted line and waited".

"We were allowed a quick peek and a kiss before she was rushed off. It was incredibly scary and hard to believe something that small could survive," she said.

For the experienced paediatric surgical team at St George's Hospital, Abi's surgery was still a world-first.

Pediatric surgeon Zahid Mukhtar told the BBC that the little girl's skin and tissues were very "jelly-like".


"If you held them she would start to bleed and, if you can imagine, a baby that size has very little circulating blood volume, so you can't really afford any blood loss," he said. "But this great team of about 10 people were focusing all their energy on this tiny little baby."

For the Peters family, waiting for surgeons to emerge from theatre was "the longest three hours of our lives".

"When the door opened and one of the surgeons came into the room, we just looked at his face without hearing the words and we knew - she was okay. He was smiling," Mrs Peters told The Mirror.

"The surgery had gone as well as they could possibly have hoped, and although they were still clearly anxious considering how young she was and how far she still had to go, her first big hurdle had been cleared."

Describing their little girl as a "miracle" and a "fighter", Mrs Peters added that Abi is now at home with her big sister, two-year-old Tara. The family celebrated her due date on 19 February. 

"She's doing brilliantly," Abi's proud mum said. "We've been told to treat her like a normal newborn; she's not on any monitors or oxygen or anything. But you're still kind of, 'is she breathing?' and just making sure she's okay all the time.

"For her to be so small and to go through all that, she is an absolute miracle."