The mother of a 7-month-old infant born with a rare deformity has begged for help after doctors told her they could not remove her son’s 3-inch “tail.” Chen Wei, a mother from China’s Guangdong province, is seeking help after surgeons reportedly told her that due to a severe form of spina bifida cystica, her son’s spinal column is not fully closed and will continue to grow outside of his body. You can view photos of the infant here.

According to the Mayo Clinic, spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when a portion of the baby’s neural tubes (the structure that forms in the embryo and develops into the brain and spine) don’t develop properly or fully close. In a healthy embryo, the neural tubes close 28 days after conception.The clinic’s website notes that surgery is sometimes necessary for extreme forms of the defect, but that it’s not always adequate.

Wei’s son Xiao Wei suffers from myelomeningocele, a more severe form of spina bifida in which the meninges and spinal cord become herniated. In Xiao’s case, his spine extends through his back and ends in a larger sac that contains his spinal matter.

Chinese doctors told Wei that due to the complexity of the defect, simply removing the growth will not correct his condition. “The growth is quite well developed and now measures some 10 centimeters,” Huan Chanping, a surgeon, told reporters. ““If we cut it off, it will simply grow again. We need to repair the spinal canal first to stop it reoccurring.”

Approximately 1,500 infants a year are born with the condition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports on its website. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the condition is most prevalent in Hispanic infants. Although doctors have not determined what causes the defect, doctors recommend Folic acid as preventative measure for pregnant women at risk.