'Miracle' 9-month-old girl survives rare brain tumor

Doctors say had she been born 4 weeks later it could have been too late

ORLANDO, Fla. – Doctors are calling their 9-month-old patient a "miracle" after she survived a rare brain tumor.
Mary and Tom Hayes welcomed their daughter Katie Rose into the world last October, four weeks before her due date.
"I remember we went in on a Wednesday, and she said 'You're going to have a baby,'" Mary Hayes said.
Hayes said she had pre-eclampsia for a short time at the end of her pregnancy and listened to her doctor’s recommendation to have a C-section at 36 weeks. The new parents met their daughter early, and brought her home.

Four weeks later, they were back in the hospital after Hayes’ mother noticed something seemed wrong her granddaughter.

"So we went home, got a change of clothes, formula and drove, here to Arnold Palmer," Hayes said. 

When they arrived, their daughter’s diagnosis was life-threatening. 
"She has a mass, and it's over 60 percent of her brain, and her midline has shifted, and everything just got sped up very quickly," Tom Hayes said. 

A team of doctors from the pediatric intensive care unit at Arnold Palmer Hospital worked overnight to save Katie’s life. The Hayes’ were told if their daughter survived the night surgeons would try to remove the tumor in the morning. 

"I said 'Is my baby going to live?' And he says, 'I don't know she's got a lot of fluid on her brain,'” Mary Hayes recalled.

It was glioblastoma. The tumor was the size of a tennis ball, doctors said.

"After we looked at the MRI images together and I shared with them that this can be a difficult surgery with high risks," said Dr. Samer Elbabaa the neurosurgeon who performed Katie’s surgery.

Katie Hayes
Katie Hayes

Elbabaa said the tumor was likely congenital, meaning it was growing while Mary Hayes was still pregnant with Katie.

"Had she gone to full term, to 40 (weeks), she probably would've been a stillborn, so this in itself is a miracle," Mary Hayes said.

In the months that followed her surgery, Katie went through chemotherapy and a new targeted therapy called Larotrectinib, just approved by the Federal Drug Administration in November of 2018.

Her parents said Katie loves to talk, crawl and continues to hit her development milestones.

"During the day, if you think you had a bad day, it's like, 'Well she's getting poison put in her body,' it really has a new meaning on life,” Mary Hayes said.

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