Doctors remove ‘miracle’ baby’s grapefruit-sized facial tumor

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 3:28 AM CDT
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HAYWARD, Wis. (WCCO) - A Wisconsin family is celebrating their little boy’s first birthday. Doctors had to perform life-saving surgery on him before he was even born, due to a rare and potentially deadly birth defect.

Jagger Scalzo celebrated a hard-fought first birthday after dealing with a medical condition that surprised even experts.

Mycaela and Donovan Scalzo, parents to an almost 1-year-old girl, found out they were expecting a boy, but when they got an ultrasound, there was something they were not expecting: a congenital tumor.

“He had what’s called an oropharyngeal teratoma. They can be really small or quite large. His was huge,” said Dr. Joseph B. Lilligard, surgeon at Children’s Minnesota. “It’s a condition that happens in about one in 35,000 to one in 200,000 live births. They can block the airway, so the moment the baby is born, they wouldn’t have the ability to protect their airway or breathe.”

The Scalzo family decided to head to the Midwest Fetal Care Center in Minneapolis, a partnership between Children’s Minnesota and Allina Health.

“I think I cried almost every appointment up until he was there. It’s just so unknown,” Mycaela Scalzo said.

Lilligard and his coworkers knew what to do. It would require a C-section where the baby would be partially born while doctors removed the grapefruit-sized tumor from his mouth and face.

An ultrasound revealed baby Jagger Scalzo had a tumor on his mouth and face. Before he was even...
An ultrasound revealed baby Jagger Scalzo had a tumor on his mouth and face. Before he was even born, doctors performed life-saving surgery to remove it.(Source: Scalzo Family photos, WCCO via CNN)

The surgery was risky for both baby and mother.

“I mean, we went into my C-section not knowing if he would be OK or if I would,” Scalzo said.

But thankfully, everything worked out.

“It’s pretty remarkable. You go from a really horrific-type scene to a quite normal, exciting, almost perfect outcome,” Lilligard said. “The sky’s the limit for Jagger. He can do anything.”

After conquering a brain bleed, Jagger was able to leave the hospital after 76 days.

“I cried the entire way from Minneapolis, and I was just so excited. His dad was driving and was like, ‘Are you just gonna stare at him the whole time?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ It was just so exciting for him to meet our daughter and see them finally realize that the other exists,” Scalzo said.

Jagger’s mother says he is doing well and getting stronger. He did have a recent setback when he had a brain bleed and was treated for hydrocephalus, but his family says he’s recovering.

“He’s a miracle, and I think that’s the best way any of us can describe it. He’s the perfect, happy, smiley, little miracle, and we are so grateful we ended up where we did,” Scalzo said.

She hopes Jagger won’t have another surgery for at least 20 years.

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