Chances are high that you may have seen this image, taken by photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg for LIFE magazine. That little hand belonged to Sarah Marie Switzer (a six-month-old fetus) during her 1999 operation to close a lesion on her spinal cord. Tests had showed that she would be born with spina bifida (often prevented by taking folic acid supplements in pregnant mothers).
What a powerful moment as Dr. Bruner gently placed Sarah’s hand back into the uterus.
Problems with spina bifida include poor ability to walk, weak bladder or bowel control, hydrocephalus, a tethered spinal cord, and latex allergy. As Sarah grew, leg braces helped her walk, and her disability didn’t slow her down. Here she is at the age of nine, water-skiing. Yes, water-skiing.
Medical science is amazing!