A BABY who underwent surgery while still in her mother's womb has been reunited with the surgeon who saved her life.

Ruth Elder, 32, from Chester-le-Street, had in-utero surgery after an ultrasound showed that her unborn baby had developed a rare fetal condition, known as hydrops fetalis.

The condition is detected on a scan where there is an abnormal accumulation of fluid around the baby’s heart, lungs and inside the abdomen.

Mrs Elder had been suffering from severe pregnancy sickness and because of this had additional scans.

It was during the 28 week scan that the sonographer noticed a significant build-up of fluid around the baby’s heart and lungs.

Mrs Elder, and her husband Ross, 35, who are also parents to Henry, three, were then referred to the fetal medicine team at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

Mrs Elder said: “It all happened really quickly so there wasn’t a great deal of time to worry about what the procedure would entail, I just wanted them to do whatever they needed to do to try to save our baby.”

The procedure was carried out the following week by Professor Stephen Robson, an honorary consultant obstetrician.

Using ultrasound as a guide, Prof Robson placed a small plastic tube through the abdomen, through the wall of the womb and into the baby’s chest wall to relieve the fluid around the lungs.

Professor Robson said: “The baby was very poorly and while placing the shunt carries a risk it was the only option available. Had this procedure not taken place, the chances of the baby surviving were very low.

“The intention with Ruth’s surgery was to place a shunt in both sides of the baby’s chest but because of the position of the baby in the womb we were only able to access the right side.

“There aren’t a large number of fetal abnormalities that you can treat in the womb, but this option is sometimes available and intervention can be very effective.”

The procedure was a success and six weeks later, on July 10 last year, Mrs Elder gave birth to Harriet at 34 weeks via emergency C-section.

Harriet spent time on the RVI’s neonatal intensive care unit, then on the paediatric intensive care unit, then ward two at the Great North Children’s Hospital (GNCH) and was finally discharged home in September.

Mrs Elder said: “It was just genius what Professor Robson did. Harriet’s condition was so rare and she was so poorly we weren’t even given odds of survival but thanks to him, Dr Therese Hannon and all of the amazing staff at the RVI and GNCH, Harriet is here today and although she has complex medical conditions, with the excellent support and care led by the respiratory team she is doing really well.”

Mrs Elder has been fundraising since then and collected more than £5,000 for the Fetal Medicine Fund to say "thank you" to the team who saved her daughter’s life.

The family returned recently and met the staff who cared for them.

Mr Elder said: “We honestly can’t thank them enough for supporting us so amazingly during the most difficult time of our lives. They are the team you want on your side when Mother Nature sadly isn’t.”