With World Prematurity Day approaching on November 17th, it is a good time to go through some incredible stories of premature babies who lived, even when doctors had no hope. In most of these cases, the parent’s conviction about the survival of their child worked in their favor as they pleaded with doctors to resuscitate the babies who otherwise were presumed lost before they were given a fighting chance.
These stories restore faith in millions of people as they are nothing short of a miracle according to science. Sometimes hope and faith work where science fails. Doctors and scientists have been baffled more than once to see a premature baby survive against all odds.
This again makes us re-affirm that science has its limitations and can’t explain everything, despite attempts to try and understand what makes the difference in a premature baby’s life or death. Our bodies are a wonder that still hold a lot of mystery and that can still defy scientific reasoning.
A premature baby is considered viable (able to live with help) by doctors only if the baby is born at a gestational age of 24 weeks. At 24 weeks a baby has a chance of survival between 50 to 80 percent. Before that time, the odds range from 10 to 35 percent. The more time the baby stays in the womb prior to premature birth, the better the chances of survival are.
We have lined up 15 unbelievable stories where the chances of infant survival were far below 50 percent, and through hope and diligent care, these babies survived. These cases are still discussed today in the scientific community and provide hope for babies born at that age to survive.
Surprisingly, in most of these cases the doctors were prepared for the baby to die a natural death as the babies were not considered viable. The facilities in the hospital and training of the staff members are critical to handling these difficult cases. We can only hope that these facilities can be made available so many more babies can be given the chance to survive.
15 World’s Most Premature Baby – Frieda Mangold (2010)
Frieda Mangold holds the record for being the most premature baby to have won the survival odds of 1 to 10 percent. She was born at a gestational age of 21 weeks and 5 days and weighed just over a pound. Frieda’s twin brother, Kilian, did not survive, as he had severe heart and intestinal complications.
Frieda continued to overcome all hardships and came out a winner after 5 months of intensive care.
According to her doctors, she is a medical miracle and she will become healthier with time. During her stay in NICU she was being fed through her navel. Frieda’s mother Yvonne Mangold had complications during her pregnancy starting at 15 weeks. At 20 weeks she was hospitalized and the doctors tried to delay her delivery for as long as possible.
Yvonne and John Mangold couldn’t be happier to see their daughter going strong, but at the same time they are sad at the loss of their son Kilian.
14 Among Most Premature Babies - Amillia Taylor (2006)
Amillia Taylor is among the most premature babies to have survived in the battle of life. She was born to Sonja and Eddie Taylor and was delivered at the gestational age of 21 weeks and 6 days. This was two weeks before the cut off for legal abortions.
Sonja had gone into premature labor and became fully dilated, so doctors admitted her to the hospital to keep the baby in the womb as long as possible. Sonja also got a severe infection while in the hospital but hid it from the doctors and nurses with 'smuggled' in acetaminophen to hold down her fever.
Since a premature baby is considered viable for resuscitation only after achieving the age of 23 weeks, Sonja lied to the doctors about the gestational age of the baby in order to save her. The parents had waited 10 years to get a baby.
Amillia was so tiny that the doctors had to search for her in the womb during the c-section and she only weighed 10 ounces. Amillia fought lung and heart problems along with blood pressure issues and a minor brain hemorrhage while in intensive care for four months. She surprised the doctors by her perseverance. Now, Amillia is a healthy 9-year-old girl.
13 Aiden And Ethan Sinconis
Twins Aiden and Ethan, 24-week-preemies, are now 10-year old cute boys. Another story nothing short of a miracle! At 24 weeks, their mother, Jennifer, was rushed to emergency with a detached placenta. Each of the boys only weighed just over a pound and while in NICU, the boys had to go through a number of struggles.
They underwent heart surgery at six weeks and survived chronic lung disease, sepsis and brain hemorrhages. Aiden was in the intensive care for three months and Ethan for six months. However, the twins have had to battle additional health issues.
Jennifer Sinconis painfully witnessed her boys struggling with seizures, sensory developmental delays, hernias, tonsillitis and night terrors. The twins were not allowed to be in contact with other children during the first 3 to 4 years for the risk of catching infections. Both the boys are now healthier and doing well in school.
They may still need some little special care, but they are bright kids and their triumphs are big and exemplary.
12 Pixie Griffiths Grant, Warmed In A Sandwich Bag
Pixie was delivered at 28 weeks gestational age by an emergency c-section as her mother Sharon Grant’s placenta had insufficiency and stopped working and the baby stopped growing. Born at just over a pound, the doctors had said that she would not be live if they couldn’t maintain her body temperature.
The doctors resorted to an unusual tactic to keep the baby warm by wrapping her in a plastic sandwich bag from a supermarket before moving her to the NICU.
Pixie was in the incubator for three months and during that period she had to go through 10 blood transfusions. The baby was extremely frail, as all preemies are, and could not be held for the first 18 days of life. The baby showed strength within two months and survived the challenges each day to be off the incubator and go home.
But the major battles have been won and she looks healthy and happy now. Although it seems unusual, doctors say that putting premature babies in a sandwich bag is a great way to provide warmth and humidity for a preemie until they can get them into a warm and humid incubator.
11 Sharing The Record Of World’s Most Premature Baby - James Elgin Gill (1987)
James Elgin Gill is the oldest known most premature baby who was born in 1987 in Ottawa, Canada, at 21 weeks. He was the most premature baby to survive at the time. The doctors had no hope of his survival and they said even if he lives he will lead a life struggling with disabilities.
However, James was last known to have gone to college in 2006. He is really famous for battling the odds and his example of survival time and again reminds the medical community to give a chance to preemies and resuscitate the babies born before 23 weeks.
James survived in times when the medical facilities were not as advanced as today. Medical practices have evolved and changed in time. Revolutionary breakthroughs in other medical areas have given life to millions around the world. Then, why not preemies?
With examples like James and Frieda, many believe it is time that authorities revise the viability of a premature baby and give support to hospitals to develop expertise in saving little ones coming out early.
10 Mother’s Cuddling Brought Him Back To Life - Jamie Ogg (2010)
At 27 weeks Katie Ogg in Australia, delivered premature twins, Emily and Jaime, a girl and a boy. However, the doctors told her that her baby boy was unable to breathe. The doctors told her that they tried to revive him for 20 minutes but had declared him dead. Katie and dad David were devastated, but the nurses placed his lifeless body on her naked chest so she could at least say goodby.
Katie found that her baby was still gasping and there was still life in the tiny body, but based on what they had been told they expected that to end. However, it didn’t, and after five minutes or so she noticed that the baby appeared to be moving purposefully and breathing. She didn’t want to give up and told her husband to take his shirt off and lie next to them.
Daddy also cuddled the baby in the bed and they spoke to Jamie for nearly 2 hours before they convinced the doctor that the baby was actually alive. Encouraged by his parent’s touch and warmth, hearing his mother’s heart, Jamie had started breathing well, moving, opened his eyes and even hungrily took breastmilk off Katie’s finger.
Fortunately, Jamie did not have to go through any health issues after that and he and his sister Emily are healthy 5-year-olds.
9 ‘The Musical Genius’ - Derek Paravicini (1979)
Derek was born 37 years ago in Great Britain at 25 weeks gestational age to Mary Ann Parker Bowles. When Derek and his twin sister were born prematurely, his twin didn’t survive and he was left blind by oxygen therapy in NICU. His brain also was affected and he has severe learning disabilities and autism.
However, Derek turned out to be a music savant and started playing the piano by ear on an old keyboard given to him by his nanny at the age of two. His love for piano encouraged his parents to arrange for music lessons.
Derek went on to give his first concert at age 7 and a big musical concert at 9. He has numerous achievements as a savant musician and has won many awards. His story appeared in many tabloids and TV shows, which have made him famous. He is known to be an extraordinary improviser who ‘plays entirely by ear.’
His mentor, Adam Ockelford, wrote his biography In the Key of the Genius throwing light on his extraordinary talent.
8 Lydia Hodgkinson (2016)
Lydia’s mum, Maxine Steward was 24 weeks pregnant when her water suddenly broke in Ipswich, England. Maxine was shocked, but she knew what to do, having already gone through two successful pregnancies. She was rushed to the hospital and all the way she believed that her baby was going to be fine.
The baby was delivered with an emergency c-section and put on ventilators immediately due to breathing difficulties. The doctors believed that it would be difficult for her to survive, but Lydia stayed strong.
She got three blood transfusions in a week, but kept improving with each passing day. Maxine and her baby Lydia had become infected with septicemia, which is what caused her water to brake early. Maxine and her partner Johnny Hodgkinson, were just able to watch her and weren’t able to hold her as the doctors said there was a risk of infection.
This miracle baby has surprised the doctors with the kind of improvement she is showing. Lydia has truly defied all odds and holds the spirit of a fighter.
7 World’s Lightest Preemie - Rumaisa Rahman (2004)
Rumaisa weighed merely 8.5 ounces, less than the weight of a can of soda, when she was born and she is the tiniest preemie to have survived. Rumaisa’s twin sister, Hiba, weighed 1 pound and 4 ounces at birth. They were delivered by c-section at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago.
Their mother, Mahajabeen Sheikh, suffered from severe preeclampsia, which facilitated the delivery of her babies prematurely at the gestational age of 25 weeks 6 days. The doctors administered steroids to Mahajabeen to expedite the development of lungs of the babies when they identified her complication.
The babies were on the support of ventilators for 2 weeks and were being fed intravenously. The twins started having breastmilk with the help of bottles when they were about 10 weeks old. The twins also went through a laser eye surgery to correct problems common with premature infants. Rumaisa was discharged from the hospital after 6 months.
Both girls are growing well and do not have any developmental delays. Her name also appears in the Guinness Book of World Records.
6 World’s Oldest Living Lightest Preemie - Madeline Mann (1989)
Madeline Mann, also born at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, was born weighing only 9.8 ounces and now has grown into a pretty young lady. She was delivered early at the gestational age of 26 weeks and 6 days. Just like Rumaisa’s mother, Madeline’s mother too suffered from preeclampsia during pregnancy.
Preeclampsia slows down the growth of the baby in the womb. At birth, her weight was equivalent to a baby at the gestational age of 16 to 17 weeks because she had failed to grow due to the preeclampsia.
Due to her extremely low birth weight it was considered difficult for her to live a normal life, but Madeline stayed strong and continued to thrive. Her doctors said that most babies who are born with such a low weight suffer from many developmental problems when they track them through to school age.
But Madeline does not have any health issues other than asthma and that is considered to be extraordinary. Doctors say that the gestational age is a critical factor along with the weight, which can decide the survival chances of a preemie.
5 World’s Third Lightest Preemie – Melinda Star Guido (2011)
Melinda was born at 24 weeks gestational age and weighed only 9.5 ounces when born in Los Angeles. Melinda’s mother, Haydee Ibarra, too had preeclampsia resulting in Melinda being delivered prematurely. She had to remain in NICU for 5 months and was on ventilator due to a lung problems. Most preemies suffer from immature lungs.
She also had to undergo heart surgery and a laser surgery for treatment of her eyes. The doctors said that Melinda is lucky to survive at such a young gestational age and she did not suffer any other major scares that many preemies experience.
Ibarra was not ready to let go of her baby when the doctors told her about the survival chances of her extremely premature baby. Ibarra earlier gave birth to a stillborn so she begged the doctors to try saving her daughter. The doctors said that none of them believed that Melinda was going to survive.
Melinda’s story is considered to be a rare success story and after 5 months in the hospital she was allowed to go home at the whopping weight of 4 ½ pounds.
4 Baby With 99 Percent Odds Against Him - Jonathon Whitehill (2009)
Carrie and Eric Whitehill’s baby, Jonathon, was born at 25 weeks and weighed only 10.9 ounces when he was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, less than a hockey puck. Hockey fan, daddy Eric recollects that they did not have diapers to fit, so they used cotton balls, which were also too big for him. Little but strong, Jonathon survived 32 blood transfusions. H
e needed a ventilator for only 17 days and was breathing on his own very soon. The doctors told the parents that Jonathon had only 1 percent chance of living as he had a number of complications.
Jonathon’s parents were not willing to give up on him and stayed by his side with all their hopes. They believed that their son would win against all odds. He had to be in NICU for 5 months and battled blood staph infection and a broken leg. Jonathon needs to visit the hospital often, but his parents are grateful that his major battles are over.
At last report, he was a normal 7-year old attending school, playing hockey and soccer.
3 Saved By A Pair Of Scissors - Maddalena Douse (2012)
In UK doctors resuscitate a premature baby with a minimum weight of 1 pound, but Maddalena weighed only 13 ounces. However, a pair of scissors left on the scale when she was weighed, bumped up her recorded weight to over a pound. She was born at 23 weeks of gestational age, a week before the doctors would have considered her viable for resuscitating.
Only after putting the baby on the ventilator, the doctors realized what had happened, and what was a mistake, turned out to be life-saving for the tiny premature. Maddalena had a twin sister, Isabella, who did not survive and died a few weeks after birth. Maddalena’s mom and dad, Renato and Kate Douse say she is their miracle girl and they doubted they would ever be able to take her home.
The doctors said that she will be healthy and they do not expect any problems later in her life.
2 Fourth Tiniest Premature Baby - Kenna Moore (2012)
Kenna was born when her mother, Nicki Moore, underwent an emergency c-section at 24 weeks of her pregnancy as she had developed preeclampsia. Kenna’s growth had stalled in the womb due to mother’s preeclampsia and weighed only 9.6 ounces when she was born.
At the time of birth, the placenta, water sack and baby all came out together, meaning Kenna had no oxygen. Kenna spent 6 months in NICU and was lucky to survive. Her doctors in Charlotte, North Carolina, held out a survival chance of only 10 percent.
When Kenna was in the hospital her parents made a 30 minute trip to the hospital everyday to be with their daughter and see her progress. Kenna has an elder brother who was also born premature at 30 weeks. They knew the challenges Kenna faced and hoped that she would survive and turn odds in her favor.
Throughout the ordeal, the parents kept friends and family updated through a Facebook page, “Keeping Up with Kenna.”
1 Tiniest Premature Boy - Nicknamed Tom Thumb (2009)
Most other lightest premature babies were girls and the doctors say that the development of girls in the womb is faster than the boys for some reason and that is why they have a higher chance of survival. So Tom Thumb, a nickname assigned by his doctors, had bigger battles than the girls and was able to come through.
Tom Thumb was born in Germany at 25 weeks and weighed only 9.5 ounces, less than a can of soda. The doctors said that Tom had many problems and was under continuous monitoring.
Tom had suffered a brain hemorrhage and organ failure when he was in NICU. However, he showed improvement day after day with a heart monitor, feeding tubes, a catheter and a ventilator, but he came out a fighter and survived. When he weighed more than 8 pounds the doctors declared he could go home.
His doctors don't expect him to have any problems at present except for the glasses that he wears. His identity has been kept a secret at his parents’ request.