A “life changing” surgery

Maria Jose Chaves was born in Colombia 10 months ago with a rare birth defect that left some of her internal organs exposed.

Now she has come to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital for a 12-to-15-hour operation that will change her life.

Her doctors and nurses say they’ve never seen a baby like Maria Jose.

“We have the pelvic organs that are normally the bladder, the uterus, the colon, are split open,” said Dr. Rafael Gosalbez, a pediatric urologist at Holtz Children’s Hospital.

And some things are duplicated.

“It’s like two half-babies in the same baby – you have half of the genitals on one side, half of the genitals on the other,” Gosalbez said.

Numerous ultrasounds did not reveal the severe birth defect, and her mother, Maria Fernandez Chaves, expected a perfectly normal baby.

Many of Maria Jose’s internal organs are outside her body because her pelvis is open in the front, said Dr. Stephen Stricker, the director of pediatric orthopedics at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

In her operation, an orthopedic surgeon will have to cut her pelvic bones and then bring them together in the front while a pediatric urologist reconfigures her internal organs.

Because the Chaves family is not from this country, the International Kids Fund Wonderfund is trying to raise thousands of dollars to cover the cost of extensive treatment.

“She is a girl with much desire to live who is fighting for her life,” her mother said in Spanish.

She will need several operations in all, but surgeons at Jackson Memorial are confident that they will be able to restore her bladder and reproductive functions – making it possible for Maria Jose to one day have a baby of her own.

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