Chilean doctors have found a 60-year-old calcified fetus in an elderly woman who never knew she was pregnant.
Estela Melendez, the 91-year-old woman from La Boca in Navidad, Chile, told CNN that she has had a lump on her stomach for many years but thought little of it. When she recently suffered a fall, doctors took X-rays and found the lump, which they initially believed to be malignant.
"The doctor said I had a tumor and that they needed to operate on me," Melendez said.
Before her operation, doctors performed a second X-ray and were stunned by their findings. The growth was not a tumor at all – it was a fetus.
Melendez has what is called a lithopedion, or a calcified fetus, commonly called a stone baby, according to the Washington Post. A lithopedion most commonly forms when the mother has an abdominal pregnancy, one that occurs outside the womb but inside the mother’s abdomen. Usually this ends in a miscarriage, but if the fetus is still in the early stages, the mother’s body often reabsorbs the tissue without consequence. However, if the fetus is too big, the mother will need surgery. A lithopedion can form if there is no operation in order to protect the mother from the infection-inducing dead tissue.
Doctors considered operating on the 91-year-old to remove the fetus but ultimately decided against it due to her age.
Some patients with lithopedions can have healthy pregnancies at the same time, depending on the placement of the stone baby. Unfortunately for Melendez, her 4.4-pound lithopedion formed inside her uterus and prevented her from having the children that she and her husband desperately wanted.
Manuel Gonzalez, Melendez’s husband of 74 years, died in January at age 91, reports CNN. Now, the uncomfortable lump on her belly reminds the widow of her husband and one of life’s major regrets.
"We suffered tremendously because of this reason," said Melendez, who always dreamt of having children with her husband.