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Family and medical team celebrate Utah's first in-utero fetal surgery

Abigail rose
Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital and University of Utah Health
Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital
Abigail rose

Stephen Fenton, a pediatric surgeon and director of the Utah Fetal Center, said this surgery was no easy feat; it took a large team with years of practice together to perform the medical milestone.

“This is really what primary children’s [hospital] is about. It is really a collaboration with the University of Utah Health, and I think it’s such an honor to work with two wonderful institutions that are so committed to taking care of moms and babies with these disorders,” said Fenton.

The mother, Alisha Keyworth and her unborn baby were the first patients to undergo this surgery last year, on April 6. During an ultrasound at a regular prenatal check-up, doctor’s discovered her baby had Spina Bifida, a condition that leaves an area of the spine open and nerves exposed.

“Getting that diagnosis was heart-breaking and shattering because I felt like I had done something wrong. We knew right away that termination was never, ever an option. She is my baby, and God gave me her for a reason," Keyworth said.

A month after the surgery, Keyworth gave birth to her baby girl named Abigail.

Keyworth said she knew that if she and her baby qualified for an in-utero surgery, she was going to go with that plan. She thanked the several medical teams for staying by her baby’s side and helping her family at such a hard time.

The Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital and University of Utah Health will continue in-utero surgeries for patients who need it, leading fetal healthcare in the state to a new era.

Sydney Lasike graduated from Dixie State University, in St. George, Utah, in 3 years with a bachelors degree in Media Studies (Multimedia Journalism Emphasis). There, she competed as a student-athlete on the women’s volleyball team, and was the Features Editor of the school newspaper, Dixie Sun News. She was awarded the 2021 Media Studies Student of the Year Award, and graduated with Latin Honors - Magna Cum Laude.