In May 2019, Lenai and Matt Schier found out through a 20-week scan that their unborn daughter has a tumor in her tailbone. Two months later, the 32-year-old mom gave birth to Zalya prematurely. Doctors told the couple from Darwin, Australia, that their child could have spina bifida.
Two days after the scan, doctors found out the fetus had sacrococcygeal teratoma (SCT). It is a rare birth defect tumor found at the base of the tailbone, or coccyx.
Removed tumor through surgery
In July 2019, born three months early, Zalya underwent six hours of surgery to remove the tumor. Now, she is a thriving one-year-old baby girl.
Lenai and Matt, who are also parents to Wilder, 2, were thrilled upon knowing they are having their second child. Lenai's pregnancy was normal until the doctor saw the tumor in May 2019. After being referred to a high-risk pregnancy team, she learned that her growing baby had a type II tumor. It meant the tumor was inside her daughter's body.
Baby could be stillborn
Doctors advised the couple to abort the fetus since there is a big chance that the baby could be stillborn. However, since the MRI showed that the tumor was not affecting the baby's organs, they decided to go on with the pregnancy.
Zalya's heart could not handle the blood flow to the tumor, so she developed anemia. Due to that, Lenai had to have three ultrasound scans in a week.
Lenai's water broke on her 28th week of pregnancy, and her daughter came out only weighing two pounds three ounces. Days after, doctors removed Zalya's tumor. Doctors revived her many times and gave five blood transfusions. After that, they placed the tiny infant in NICU so Lenai had to wait ten days before she could cuddle her newborn.
Tumor was benign
They stayed in the hospital in Adelaide for 57 days before they were discharged. Five months after, the medical team allowed them to go home to Darwin. Thankfully, Zalya's tumor was benign so her organs did not get damaged.
Although she could not walk yet right now, she is thriving and is chasing her brother around the house.
The mom researched about the tumor
When Lenai found out about the tumor, she researched and found out that females get it more than males. Doctors would remove her daughter's tailbone to prevent the tumor from growing back.
During her pregnancy, she tried her best to prevent the growth of the tumor. She started drinking hot water squeezed with fresh lemon juice first thing in the morning.
Admittedly, Lenai said that she got depressed at one time, but moms who were once in her shoes helped her. They answered many of her questions and helped her to expect what might happen in the future.
The tumor could have been a twin
Some doctors believed that the tumor could have been a twin that never formed fully. It made sense to her because her mom is a twin and her dad-in-law is too.
After doctors removed Zalya's coccyx bone, they closely monitored her and got regular blood tests to make sure the tumor does not come back. Lenai found that the risk is high until her daughter turns five.
Lenai said that all she wants is for her daughter to be happy and healthy. Someday, she hopes that Zalya could talk to the other survivors. She also said that she is now helping other moms whose unborn baby is diagnosed with SCT. Sharing has healed her, so now, she is connecting to those who have gone through the same thing as her.
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