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'It's The Crown Jewel Of CHOP': Special Delivery Unit Celebrates 10th Anniversary

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is celebrating the 10th anniversary of their Special Delivery Unit.

Sofia Rose Alphonse loves playing with her big brother--happy times her parents were fearful would never happen. Sofia has spina bifida, she was diagnosed when her mom was 20 weeks pregnant.

"It was a very scary situation. We had no idea what was going to happen with her," said Sofia's mom, Alicia Alphonse.

The family turned to the Special Delivery Unit at CHOP where Alicia had fetal surgery when she was 23 weeks pregnant. Surgeons repaired the lesion on the babies' back.

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"It was the scariest thing in ever had to do in my life," said Alicia.

Twelve weeks later, Sofia was born and now about to be one year old. She's a bundle of energy. The only sign: a big scar on her lower back.

"She's doing exceptionally well," said Alicia.

The Alfonse family was part of the celebration, marking the 10 year anniversary of the Special Delivery Unit.

"In my view, the Special Delivery Unit serves as a beacon of excellence, it's the crown jewel of CHOP," said Scott Adzick, the surgeon-in-chief at CHOP.

The unit takes care of women with high-risk pregnancies, who are carrying fetuses with known birth defects. They treat both mom and the baby, either with fetal surgery or operations after delivery.

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"What we are providing here is a very large multi-disciplinary team approach to care. So it's the aspect that includes not only mom but also providing support for the entire family. And then also, individualized care that the newborn is going to need," said Dr. Julie Moldenhauer with CHOP.

Because the care is often prolonged, the Unit becomes an extended family. Moms like Alicia find support and reassurance and babies like Sophia get a second chance at life.

"I can't even begin to thank CHOP for what they did for us because fetal surgery is scary and with not knowing and what it can do for her it's a game changer," Alicia said.

The maternal-fetal unit has now performed over 3,600 deliveries, averaging about 500 a year, with patients from all over the world.


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