1. Home
  2. Your impact
  3. Back to Meet the people you're helping Meet the people you're helping
  4. Ethan's story

Ethan's story

hero-banner-mobile hero-banner-desktop

Yeppoon mum Carla Sikes says she and baby Ethan McElhenny will have “matching scars” for life, following rare and difficult in-utero surgery at Mater Mothers’ Hospital last year.

During a 20-week pregnancy scan at her hometown of Yeppoon, Carla and her partner Mick received the overwhelming news that their developing baby had severe spina bifida—a condition that occurs when the spinal cord fails to develop properly.

The couple travelled to Brisbane for multiple medical appointments over the next four weeks, before Carla was wheeled into the operating theatre for the incredibly delicate surgery performed by Mater Neurosurgeon Dr Martin Wood, under the leadership of the Director of Maternal Foetal Medicine Dr Glenn Gardener.

While the surgery went well, Ethan arrived just 20 days later—three months early and weighing only 1.29kg.

He battled a range of complications during his time at the Mater Mothers' Neonatal Critical Care Unit which required several more surgeries, including two to remove the build-up of too much fluid on his brain, and one to repair a hole in his tiny bowel.

“For a period there it was touch and go for Ethan, but he’s showed us how strong he is. So he has a lot of battle scars, but that just tells his story,” Carla said.

Ethan was just the 12th baby to have in-utero surgery for spina bifida at Mater Mothers’ Hospital, which is the only facility in Australia and New Zealand that performs the operation which can significantly influence their chances of walking unaided.

When you support Mater Foundation, you support the ground-breaking medical research that gives babies like Ethan a healthy, active life without spina bifida. 

Buy a Mater Prize Home ticket to support premature babies.