New Jersey miracle baby born with fatal condition defies the odds

GARFIELD, New Jersey (WABC) -- A miracle baby in New Jersey is only seven months old, but he is already defying the odds.

Lucas was diagnosed with a fatal condition before he was born. But doctors performed ground-breaking surgery to help save his life.

"He's so unique. Most of the children that are born with this condition die after several hours," said Dr. Tim Vogel with North Jersey Brain and Spine Center.

Lucas is the only baby in the world who has survived and thrives with a condition called exencephaly which means he is missing a large area of his skull.

"The skull doesn't form so the brain is exposed to the intrauterine environment and usually that causes a lot of damage," Vogel said.

Lucas' mom found out about her son's condition when she was 10 weeks pregnant.

"And they recommended abortion, so that's not what I wanted to do," Maria Santa Maria said.

She was told that even if he made it to birth, he would not live past that day. So she prepared his three sisters.

"When we were in the delivery room because I wanted them to meet their baby brother, so we didn't know what to expect. So they came in, they were told their baby brother was going to die," she said.

But Vogel said Lucas was otherwise a healthy baby. With the family's blessing, he gave the infant a chance by closing the skin around his exposed brain tissue.

As the skull bone grows, Vogel will shave a layer from it to fill in sunken areas, giving him a more rounded head.

It's not known how far he will be able to advance physically and mentally, but his will to live keeps the doctor excited about giving Lucas the best chances possible.

"It's just awesome to be a part of something that is so unique, and to really know there's a promising future for Lucas," Vogel said.

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