Baby girl is born with a football-sized cyst on her face

Girl born with neck growth ‘twice the size of her head’ has an operation involving 40 medics to remove the cyst before she was even one week old

  • Little Bella-Rose Burress born with 13cm cyst on her neck in Chicago last week
  • Diagnosed with cystic hygroma, a collection of fluid-filled sacs, at 20-week scan
  • At that time growth measured 6cm but more than doubled by time she was born
  • Parents Tibatha, 24, and Daniel, 40, described it as ‘scariest moment in their life’

A baby born with a football-sized cyst on her neck is finally going home after a team of 40 doctors removed the growth from her neck in a gruelling operation. 

Parents Tibatha Pilarski, 24, and partner Daniel, 40, feared the worst when little Bella-Rose Burress was delivered with a growth that was twice the size of her own head.

But the one-week-old child has made a full recovery after the meticulous operation in Chicago, Illinois, was successful on August 27.

Doctors diagnosed Bella-Rose with cystic hygroma – a collection of fluid-filled sacs – at Ms Pilarski’s 20-week scan.

At that time the growth measured 6cm but more than doubled to 13cm by the time she was born. 

The couple had to go through seven months’ worth of hospital appointments where they watched the cyst grow bigger with every scan. 

Bella-Rose Burress was born with a football-sized cyst – known as a cystic hygroma – on her neck 

A team of 40 doctors removed the growth from her neck in a gruelling operation after her birth on August 27

Parents Tibatha Pilarski, 24, and partner Daniel (pictured with the tot after the successful operation), 40, described seeing their daughter for the first time as the ‘scariest moment in their lives’

Cystic hygromas occur when the lymph vessels fail to form correctly during the first few weeks of pregnancy. 

The condition affects up to one per cent of newborns in the UK and US. In most cases, the entire growth must be removed to prevent it from coming back.

Ms Pilarski described seeing her baby daughter for the first time as the ‘scariest moment of her life’.

She said: ‘She’s our miracle baby, she’s such a fighter and has defied all of the odds, we had to stay positive for her throughout the entire pregnancy.

‘I was under a general anaesthetic for the birth so I didn’t see just how big the growth was until the doctors showed me pictures, it was probably the scariest moment of my life.

‘The doctors knew how big it was going to be, but we didn’t, they said they had a plan and as long as the plan worked Bella would be fine.’  

Doctors diagnosed Bella-Rose with cystic hygroma at Ms Pilarski’s 20-week scan. At that time the growth measured 6cm but more than doubled to 13cm by the time she was born 

Little Bella-Rose clutches her mother’s finger after coming to following the gruelling surgery

Daniel comforts Ms Pilarski as she went into labour – knowing that their baby girl would be born with a giant cyst

A team of 40 doctors battle to cut the cyst from Bella-Rose’s neck after her birth last week

Daniel, a construction worker, was overcome with emotion when he first saw his child for the first time and feared the worst.

He said: ‘During the delivery they had 40 doctors watching who were in separate teams working on their own part of the birth, it was terrifying.

WHAT ARE CYSTIC HYGROMAS?

Cystic hygromas are a collection of fluid-filled cysts.

They affect up to one per cent of newborns in the UK. Their US prevalence is unknown.  

Cystic hygromas most commonly form on the neck and armpits.

They occur when the lymph vessels fail to form correctly during the first few weeks of pregnancy.

Due to them occurring so early on in pregnancies, they cannot be prevented.

Cystic hygromas can be detected during pregnancy scans. 

Most are visible during birth or early infancy and appear as painless, translucent, soft lumps.

Treatment is not always required but may involve surgical removal or injection sclerotherapy.

Sclerotherapy causes an inflammatory reaction that makes cystic hygromas shrink.

Cosmetic surgery may be performed in later life to reduce scarring. 

Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital 

‘I was not allowed in the operating room, I must have paced three or four miles around the hospital whilst the birth was happening.

‘As soon as I saw Bella come out of the room I was crying like a child, it was very emotional.

‘I was sick to my stomach when I first saw the growth because I was in so much shock, I expected a tennis ball sized growth, but it was twice the size of her head.

‘I didn’t know what to say or do, I just froze and cried – I could not believe what was happening.

‘The thing is that nobody talks about this condition so nobody knows what to expect when they are dealing with it and I’m just so proud of Tibatha for being so strong, I can’t believe how lucky we are to now be able to plan for Bella’s future.  

Throughout their pregnancy, the couple revealed they had to deal with pressure from friends and family to abort Bella-Rose.

Ms Pilarski said: ‘The growth just kept growing, it was on her neck so we were told she might not be able to breath and could even be deaf.

‘We just kept telling each other it was all going to be fine whilst knowing that it may not be, we did whatever it took to reassure each other

Mr Pilarski added: ‘You would think that your close friends and family should just support you from day one but we have had to cope with them pressuring us to abort Bella, it has really shown us who is truly there for us.

‘Even though we were being told that we wouldn’t be able to deal with and Bella would not have a happy life, we knew she would and we were never going to abort this beautiful girl no matter how she was when she was born.

Bella-Rose’s parents are now gearing up to take the child home as she makes a full recovery in hospital 

A scan reveals the 13cm cyst on Bella-Rose’s neck ahead of the birth

The couple, who have five other children from past relationships now have Bella-Rose to add to their family and have already started planning for her future

‘We can’t sit here and say that it didn’t put a strain on our relationship, but through the strain we realised how much we love each other, it has made us stronger than ever.’

The couple, who have five other children from past relationships now have Bella-Rose to add to their family and have already started planning for her future. 

She is expected to be home happy and healthy by next month.

Ms Pilarski said: ‘We can’t wait to watch her grow up and have a normal life, she’ll have quite the story to tell her friends.’

The happy pair want to use their experience to show other parents that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for anyone who is suffering the same pregnancy that they did.

Daniel said: ‘We’re hoping that people will look at what happened to us and regain their hope, you would never expect Bella to look how she does now after how she looked when she was first born, but she is getting better and better.

‘If it can end this well for us, then it can for you too.’

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