A Northern Irish toddler is not only alive but is thriving after profound birth defects left doctors predicting the worst and encouraging her parents to abort her.
According to Right to Life UK, little Karlie was born with encephalocele, a condition in which part of her brain protruded through her skull and face.
Doctors warned her parents, Gemma-Sarah and Kyle, that their daughter would only live for a few minutes after birth—if she was born alive at all.
Ignoring strong suggestions from medical professionals to have a “therapeutic abortion,” Karlie’s parents didn’t give up on her.
Gemma-Sarah recalled to The Sun her excitement to become a mother being eclipsed by the terror in finding that something was wrong.
“I was looking forward to finding out the baby’s sex, but the sonographer went really quiet and then went to fetch a doctor,” Gemma-Sarah said. “The doctor told us we were having a little girl, but they’d found a large mass on the front of our baby’s face. It also looked like her brain was severely deformed.”
“We were advised to think about a termination. Our baby had no chance of survival… Tears were pouring down my face and I was shaking my head. No way. No. Absolutely not,” the brave mom declared. “I couldn’t get words out so I just carried on shaking my head. There was no way I was giving up on her.”
In spite of such a grave prognosis, Karlie came into the world in November of 2016.
“She was so beautiful. I hadn’t known what to expect. I’d been terrified she would look horribly deformed,” Gemma-Sarah said. “But she was gorgeous, with her pretty wee eyelashes, rosy cheeks and ten tiny fingers. There was no mistaking her problem though. Part of her brain was literally sticking out of her forehead, between her eyes. It looked like a small purple ball. I told Kyle it was her wee unicorn.”
Karlie was then placed in an incubator and her parents were told to say their goodbyes to their little girl. Instead, the precious little fighter began rooting around to nurse.
Karlie was given a feeding tube and moved to a neonatal intensive care unit and continued to thrive.
Meanwhile, Gemma-Sarah demanded a second opinion on her daughter’s condition, leading her to a Belfast surgeon.
After a procedure to clear away the protruding part of her brain and seal the hole in her skull, Karlie made a healthy recovery.
“I’ll never forget the moment when the porters wheeled her away down a corridor at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital…I had no idea if I’d ever see her again,” Gemma-Sarah said. “She still has a wee red scar on her face from the operation, but we think she’s absolutely gorgeous, with her blonde ringlets and smile that lights up the room.”
Although Karlie is not without other health issues, including cerebral palsy and a rare condition in which her brain is not divided into the usual left and right hemispheres, she still continues to defy all expectations.
“Karlie has defied every expectation so far,” Gemma-Sarah said of predictions that her daughter would never walk or talk. “Every prediction for her has been wrong. If my daughter won’t give up, then I’ll never stop fighting for her.”
Now, Gemma-Sarah plans to attend an international conference on Holoprosencephaly in 2022.
“My dream is to meet other families with kids with the same condition, and hopefully get Karlie seen by the world’s leading experts,” she said. “Karlie’s our sunny wee miracle and she’s not done yet!”
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