I was heartbroken when my baby boy was born INSIDE OUT – it meant I couldn’t hug him

A NEW mum was left in shock when her baby was born INSIDE OUT – the result of a rare condition.

Around five in every 10,000 babies are born with gastroschisis, which leaves organs outside of the body.

Ashlie Fowler, 29, was told 12 weeks into her pregnancy that her son – her first child – would be affected by the condition.

But, even though she was prepared in advance, the vehicle technician said she was still stunned when her baby, named Koa, was born.

Incredible pictures show the extent of Koa's condition – which left him needing to stay in hospital for three weeks after birth.

Little Koa is now five-weeks-old and is happily living at home near Bury, Greater Manchester with Ashlie and dad Carl, 29.

"He's home now and doing well; he's home much sooner than he expected to be," says Ashlie.

"He's called Koa, which means fighter or warrior in Hawaiian.

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"Me and my partner surf, so it's just a name we'd heard before, and we named him before we found out what was wrong with him.

"So when we found out, it seemed very fitting."

Now he's home, Koa's "weight is the biggest concern because with his bowels on the outside he wasn't allowed to eat anything for the first week."

Gastroschisis is a birth defect of the abdominal, or belly, wall.

During growth in the womb, the baby fails to properly fuse their anterior body wall together.

And, with the area not properly closed up, organs can soon start to leak out of the body, to the right of the belly button, as they develop.

In extreme cases, this can even mean the stomach and liver escape the body.


"At my 12-week scan I found out, so I found out quite early on" remembers Ashlie.

"I was mortified – obviously I didn't know what it was, the scanner just said that the bowel was on the outside and my heart just dropped.

"I had no idea what that meant.

"I'm not at all medically qualified, so I didn't know whether it was worse than how it sounded.

"Once I'd started seeing specialists they were quite confident he would be okay.

"We had to go to a specialist hospital, he couldn't be born in a regular hospital.

"They wanted to just do a natural birth, but he was breach, so I had a c-section in the end anyway.

"They looked to operate on him within four hours of birth.

"I had the c-section, and he was immediately put into an incubator and whisked away.

"After he was born, they put all his organs into a bag because they don't want them to dry up or lose heat, or get infected.

"I don't think Koa was in any pain, because when I saw him for the first time he was all wrapped up and happy in the incubator.

"I couldn't hold him straightaway as they said he wasn't stable enough yet, plus I was still getting cleaned up after surgery, but he looked happy in his little hat."


Koa was essentially fed through a catheter towards his heart for a week after birth, to avoid using his organs too much.

"He was on morphine for three or four days, but after then was just on paracetamol," adds Ashlie.

"He was only in the hospital for about three or four weeks – which they said was incredible as he was expected to be in for around six.

"If any more of his organs had come out of his body the risk would have started to increase, his stomach could have come out for example and a section of his bladder had already."

While Ashlie was discharged from hospital quickly, Koa had to remain to gain strength after his operation that put his organs back where they should be.

Getting up at quarter to five every day to drive the nearly hour-long journey to hospital, Ashlie spent days with her son by her side as he recovered – often alone.

"Once Koa was in the ICU that was hard because it was just me and Carl, and he's obviously had to work to support us, so I was on my own a lot.

"My mum got a lot of phone calls in tears."

There were difficult times, with family being unable to visit due to Covid restrictions – but Ashlie was thankful for the amazing work of NHS staff, who visit to check on Koa every few days at home, to make sure he's putting on enough weight.

"The NHS have been incredible. St Mary's Hospital was just incredible," says Ashlie.

"If it wasn't for them, he wouldn't be alive right now."

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