"Miracle" baby returns home after rare in utero surgery

SHEBOYGAN (WITI) -- A family's journey of heartache and joy came to a happy end at Bethany Church in Sheboygan Friday night.

April and Jason Leffingwell were met with cheers as they walked into a benefit concert held in their honor at the church.  April held their newborn son, Elijah.

The family's test of faith began in August, when a 20-week ultrasound revealed a macrocyst on Elijah's left lung, pressing dangerously against his heart.

The family then traveled to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. On Sept. 21, April and Elijah underwent a risky and extremely rare in utero surgery.

At just 25 weeks, Elijah was partially removed from his mother's uterus so a team of doctors could remove the tumor.

"I thought it was science fiction," said April Leffingwell.

A tumor three and half times the size of the baby's head was successfully removed.  However, the surgery was not without complications.

"His heart rate dropped to 60 beats a minute and the doctor said they had to massage it back and his heart was the size of a dime," said April Leffingwell.

Elijah survived and was returned to his mother's womb.  His father says the surgical team cheered when the surgery was completed.

Two months after the surgery, in November, Elijah was born premature.  He had more surgeries, including one for a hernia on his diaphragm, and was on life support for nine days.

On Friday, Jan. 25, Elijah and his parents returned home to Wisconsin.  For the first time since he was in the hospital, he met his grandmother and sister.

The Leffingwells say it's possible Elijah will have some complications from the surgeries as his body grows, especially with his lungs.  However, they believe he will be able to live a full, normal life.

The Leffingwells live in Mequon.

If you wish to make a contribution, you can write a check out to: Bethany Reformed Church: "The Elijah Leffingwell Fund." Your gift can be dropped off or mailed to any Associated Bank: www.associatedbank.com