1. ITV Report

Young girl who was operated on in the womb amazes family

Frankie Lavis was diagnosed at 19 weeks and was operated on in the womb Photo: ITV West Country

A mother from Plymouth says she's amazed at how far her daughter has come since receiving pioneering surgery in the womb.

Frankie Lavis was the first British child to have the procedure in Belgium four years ago after being diagnosed with Spina Bifida at just 19 weeks.

Spina bifida is when a baby's spine and spinal cord don't develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.

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Frankie turned four in August and in September started school, two milestones her parents Gina and Dan once thought may never happen.

We were initially told with the size of her Spina Bifida we would be lucky if she could sit unaided, she wouldn't walk, she would have bladder and bowel problems. Frankie now - well, she's a very determined little girl, she walks, she wears supports in her shoes and she does get tired so she has a wheelchair that she uses a lot as well but she can walk.

– Mum Gina Lavis
Gina and Frankie were the first in the UK to have this type of surgery Credit: ITV West Country

At 24 weeks pregnant, a team of surgeons in Belgium operated on Frankie's spine while she was still in Gina's womb - making Frankie the UK's first unborn baby with Spina Bifida to have this type of surgery.

This type of foetal surgery isn't a miracle cure - Frankie still sometimes uses a wheelchair and she'll always need some support but ask her Mum what she thinks of her girl and there's no messing with her answer.

I just think she's amazing. I think it is amazing how far she has come, she is the biggest pain in my bum at times! But she is also the brightest shining star that we have and she is like that again because of all the support of our friends, and our family and the NHS without all of them she wouldn't be who she is today.

– Mum Gina Lavis

Not all unborn children with Spina Bifida will meet the criteria for this surgery but Frankie's family say she gives hope to many.