Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- A family from Thibodaux has high hopes for a new baby boy now that he is the first in this region to have surgery before he was born.

This type of fetal surgery is proven to help babies more than performing the surgery after birth.

Newborn Colby Boudreaux recently left Ochsner Hospital while kicking his legs, something his mother Kaci and a team of Ochsner doctors were concerned would never happen.

When Kaci went to get an ultrasound to find out if she was having a boy or girl, another test revealed he had a serious form of spina bifida. That's when a baby has a hole in its back that didn't close in the first month of pregnancy. It puts the function of the spinal cord and brain at risk.

Back in December, the Boudreaux family had a decision to make. Should Colby be the first unborn baby at Ochsner and in the Gulf south to have surgery?

'We had looked up some videos about it and stuff like that, so it was pretty, a simple decision, that we would want to do it if anyway that it would help or benefit the baby in any way, that we would want to go ahead and do the surgery,' said Kaci in December.

So at 23 weeks into pregnancy, a team of 18 surgeons and nurses made an opening in her uterus. Colby was just more than a pound. His back was exposed through the opening and surgery was performed to close the birth defect.

'It doesn't get much bigger than this. This is kind of the crowning moment of fetal surgery because it is an intervention that has been shown to make a difference,' said Dr. Clifton Moore, a specialist in maternal fetal medicine at Ochsner Health System.

The surgical team of specialists prepared for a year for this delicate procedure. It was done using high-magnification lenses.

'This isn't one of those things that I had to get right. The whole team had to get it right,' said Dr. C.J. Bui, an adult and pediatric neurosurgeon at Ochsner Health System. 'The difference for a family having a wheelchair-bound kid versus a kid that can walk, that is huge.'

Colby was born by C-section 12 weeks later at 35 weeks, weighing nearly 5 pounds.

'This is one of those instances where you are really making a difference for the patient,' said Dr. Charles Kantrow, an Ochsner general pediatrician.

This surgery has been performed at 10 other hospitals in the U.S. It is not a cure for spina bifida and we don't know Colby's prognosis yet. For now, he does not need a shunt for fluid causing pressure on the brain.

To prevent spina bifida, women need folic acid, which is vitamin B-9, before and during pregnancy. That is why diet and supplements are important especially in the childbearing years.

For more information on this procedure and treatment options, call 504-842-6290 or click here.

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