A seven month-old baby boy is defying the odds after his parents backed out of their initial plans to abort the child, who had been diagnosed with a rare condition in which his brain was growing outside of his skull.
Doctors had advised Dustin and Sierra Yoder to consider abortion after diagnosing their 22-week-old son with encephalocele, an abnormality of which he was not expected to survive.
“We were unimaginably shocked when we got the dire prognosis,” Sierra told People Magazine. “The specialist gave us no hope that he would ever live, breathe or thrive. It was gut-wrenching and nerve-wracking to think I was going to have our baby just to say goodbye as soon as we got to say hello.”
The Yoders scheduled an abortion as they determined that they didn’t want their son to “suffer.” However, just before the appointment, Sierra changed her mind. She couldn’t bring herself to end her child’s life.
“The night before the procedure, I told Dustin I couldn’t do it,” she told the Washington Post. “He had a big sigh of relief. He was very happy.”
Doctors told the Yoders that even if their son survived birth, he would likely be a vegetable. They provided the couple with information on area funeral arrangements.
But last October, Bentley was born very much alive.
“It was love at first sight. He came out kicking and screaming and breathing,” Sierra recalled. “We were so relieved we got even that because it was not what doctors had anticipated.”
The Yoders feared the worst for Bentley in the first few weeks of his life, knowing what the doctors had stated about his prognosis, but he remained stable despite having a major protrusion from his skull. Nonetheless, doctors told the couple to make arrangements for hospice.
Yet, little Bentley did not die despite struggling with infections and other complications. Experts at Boston Children’s Hospital found that the child was using his brain, and while they were uncertain whether they could successfully place the brain back into Bentley’s cranium, they determined to save as much tissue as possible. Customary surgical procedures for encephalocele cases involve simply removing the section of the brain outside the cranium.
Last month, at five months old, Bentley underwent an extensive surgical procedure involving a team of 40 doctors that lasted five hours.
While encephalocele cases are rare, and Bentley’s case was even rarer since his brain was actually functioning normally outside of this cranium, doctors are hopeful that he will continue to defy the odds.
“We are so positive,” Dr. John Meara, the plastic surgeon-in-chief at Boston Hospital, told reporters. “He bounced back very quickly and he returned back to his baseline, neurologically, very quickly. Several days after [surgery], he was back to where he was beforehand.”
“I have no reason to believe that [his brain] won’t grow normally,” he said.
Yoder says that she is thankful that she didn’t abort her son.
“Doctors are amazing, but some of them don’t know what they are talking about,” she told ABC News. “As a mother, you have to trust your gut. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have my son right now.”