A baby was born with her heart outside her body — and survived

Immediately after Vanellope Hope Wilkins was born, she was put in sterile plastic to protect her heart – which was beating outside her tiny chest.

It was a moment that her parents, Dean Wilkins and Naomi Findlay, had hoped for but were not certain would actually come – a moment in which their baby girl would come into the world, and live.

The newborn, who was born Nov. 22 at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, England, was delivered by Caesarean section several weeks premature with a rare and often fatal congenital condition called ectopia cordis, in which the heart is growing either completely or partially outside the chest cavity. Most babies born with the malformation are stillborn or they do not survive long after birth.

“It was overwhelming, wasn’t it?” Wilkins, from Bulwell, Nottingham, recently asked Findlay about the birth of their first child, according to BBC News.