Lynlee Boemer was just 1 lb., 3 oz. when doctors removed a tumor from her body that weighed almost as much as she did.
At just 23 weeks, she was taken from her mother Margaret Boemer’s womb for 20 minutes so doctors could perform a five-hour, life-saving surgery. The surgeons then placed Lynlee back inside the womb and sewed the uterus shut.
Margaret says she didn’t think twice about going through the open fetal surgery.
“I knew we were doing this to try and save her life,” Margaret from Lewisville, Texas, tells PEOPLE. “That’s all I could focus on.”
At 16 weeks pregnant, the mother of two daughters learned during a routine ultrasound that her baby had sacrococcygeal teratoma, a type of tumor that develops at the base of the tailbone and occurs in one out of every 40,000 pregnancies.
“It was a complete shock to us,” she says. “And it was very concerning to the specialist. She had never seen one so huge.”
After meeting with doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, they were told open fetal surgery was an option. The complex surgical intervention repairs birth defects in the womb.
Margaret was monitored every two weeks to track the growth of the tumor and was told at 23 weeks pregnant that Lynlee’s heart was becoming compromised and she was starting to experience heart failure. She had to have surgery.
“It was a little bit of panic and nervousness,” she says, “but I knew it was what had to be done to give her life.”
The doctors listed every possible risk — her uterus could rupture, she could have a blood clot and she could bleed out.
Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, pediatric surgeon and co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center and Dr. Darrell Cass and pediatric surgeon and co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center led the surgery.
“I was willing to endure all those risks to give her a chance at life,” the determined mom says.
After the complicated surgery and a difficult recovery, Margaret was able to carry her baby girl for another 12 weeks. On June 6, at 36 weeks and five days, Lynlee was born at 5lbs, 5oz.
“She was able to grow and thrive and her heart had time to heal,” she says.
When she was just 8 days old, Lynlee had another surgery to remove the remaining part of the tumor. She remained in the NICU for another 24 days..
Today, Lynlee is growing, “eating a ton” and meeting her developmental milestones, Margaret shares. Her family continues to watch her spine and won’t know until she’s potty-trained if she will have control over her bowels.
“We’re very strong and my husband Jeff is wonderful. He would bring our girls down to visit me every weekend,” she says. “We’re all together now and very happy.”