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Miracle Baby Amelia Thriving Not Long After Doctors In Philadelphia Repaired Extremely Rare Heart Defect

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Not too long ago, doctors saved a baby born with a lethal heart defect.

It's a story of modern medicine, teamwork, strong parents and a baby with a will to live, CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday.

A miracle of life, and science.

Baby Amelia was born with a heart defect so rare there have only been a handful of similar cases ever reported in the whole world, and most of those babies died right after birth.

But doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said not this time.

Baby Amelia
Amelia Thome (Photo: CBS2)

Little Amelia Thome was 4 1/2 months old when we first met her and you'd never know that she almost never survived her first day of life.

A routine ultrasound at 20 weeks, followed by specialized scans, found Amelia had an abnormal connection between the pulmonary blood vessels to and from her heart. That is so serious, her mother and father were advised to consider aborting the baby.

But that wasn't an option for Robyn and Nick Thome. They were sent to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which everyone refers to as CHOP, where Dr. Jack Rychik, the director of the hospital's Fetal Heart Program, had assembled an interdisciplinary team of specialists to deal with problems like Amelia's. But it all had to happen immediately, following a C-section.

"Looking at the size of the communication, itself, we knew we had nothing more than a few minutes before we would need to intervene," Dr. Rychik said.

Nick was in the operating room with Robyn that morning.

"We know it's going to be the best day or the worst day of our lives, and you go in and it's almost like watching a movie of your life, but you're not really there," he said.

The intervention meant plugging the abnormal connection in the pulmonary blood vessels with a tiny metal device. It's a very delicate placement and deployment next to a heart the size of a cherry tomato.

Less than an hour later, success.

"All of the anxiety building up, we knew we were ... gonna bring home a baby," Robyn said.

"I'll never be able to repay the gift that they have given us. It's really amazing," Nick added.

"You just hope that she's happy, that she can look back one day and realize how special she is," Robyn said.

Dr. Rychik told CBS2's Gomez that because this is such a rare case, it's hard to predict Amelia's prognosis, but he said she's doing so well. She's growing normally, meeting milestones and her heart is back to normal size, which makes him think she'll be just fine.

Mom and dad said they just want her to grow up to be a good person.

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