Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Miracle baby

Her tiny transparent feet, covered in gelatinous skin, look like those of some aquatic creature. Her chest, festooned with wires and tubes, covers a heart that pumps up to 80 times a minute. She is the world's most premature baby known to have survived and, after four months in hospital, she is going home.

Born at 21 weeks and six days gestation, barely half the 37 to 40 weeks normal babies spend in the womb, Amillia Sonja Taylor weighed less than 10 ounces, less than half a bag of sugar. She measured just over nine inches long.

Her doctors at the Baptist Children Hospital in Florida did not hold out much hope. "We weren't too optimistic but she proved us all wrong. She is truly a miracle baby. We didn't even know what a normal blood pressure is for a baby this small," William Smalling, a neonatologist, said.

Premature births as extreme as this carry high risks. Amillia has experienced respiratory problems, a very mild brain haemorrhage and some digestive problems, but none of the health concerns are expected to pose long-term problems, her doctors said. During two months in an incubator, she had plastic surgery to repair an ear torn during delivery.

"We can deal with lungs and things like that but, of course, the brain is the most important," said Paul Fassbach, a neonatalogist. "But her prognosis is excellent."

Today, Amillia has grown to a healthy 4lbs, still barely half the weight of a newborn baby, and is 25 inches long. Conceived by IVF, she is the first child of Sonja and Eddie Taylor, from Homestead, Florida, and already the centre of their world. "I am still in amazement. I wanted her to have a chance and I knew in my heart that she was going to make it," Mrs Taylor, 37, said. "It was hard to imagine she was going to get this far but now she is beginning to look like a real baby. Even though she is only 4lbs now she looks plump to me."

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