The very young life of Baby Dominique is now forever changed.
She was born in the Ivory Coast, with four legs and two spines, the result of a twin who died in utero and was absorbed by Dominique’s body.
At 10 months, after flying nearly 9,000 miles, the child underwent a massive, risky surgery to remove two of the extra limbs, which protruded from her neck and were weighing on her spines and overtaxing her heart and lungs, physicians said.
After more than six hours of surgery at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Illinois, Dominique is sitting up, laughing and on her way to a much better future.
“She’s great,” foster mom Nancy Swabb told InsideEdition.com Tuesday as Dominique wailed in the background. “She’s doing very well.”
Dominique, apparently a little hungry, abruptly piped down when Swabb gave her a bottle.
The baby arrived in Chicago in February, courtesy of Ohio-based charity Children’s Medical Mission West, to prepare for an extremely complex surgery requiring a 50-person medical team of surgeons, plastic surgeons, nurses and technicians.
The nonprofit group provides life-changing surgeries to needy children around the globe.
Swabb had never heard of the group before seeing a Facebook post seeking a host family for Baby Dominique while she underwent, and recuperated from, painstaking surgery to remove a parasitic twin.
Swabb “saw a photo of sweet little Dominique and her mother” in Abidjan, and that was it.
She sent an application and letters of recommendation. Her husband felt as she did. In little more than a week, Dominique was in their arms.
The couple have two adopted children, ages 9 and 15, and so had already undergone detailed background checks, Swabb said.
“It’s really an amazing story about trust and hope,” she said. “Here we are helping another family. They just happen to live on a different continent.”
She sends updates and photos to an advocate at the organization, where they translated into French and sent on to Dominique’s parents. As soon as physicians say she is able, Dominique will return the her family, accompanied on the long flight home by an escort.
Surgeons left both spines intact because they seem to be functioning, Swabb said. “She has full mobility. She is doing what a 10-month-old can do. She’s moving her toes and fingers.”
The baby, who has sprouted two teeth and learned to wave since coming to America, may be heading to Africa as early as next month.
“It’s got to be unbelievably hard for her mother, being separated from her baby for two months,” Swabb said.
But when the time comes, saying goodbye to Dominique isn’t going to be easy for the host mother.
“I’m dreading it,” Swabb said.