The odds of a newborn surviving birth in the 21st week of gestation are slim, but parents, Rick and Beth Hutchinson, never stopped hoping that their miracle baby would have a fighting chance. On June 5, 2021, the Hutchinsons celebrated Richard Scott William Hutchinson's first birthday following a six-month stay at the hospital.
Last year, Beth, who was on the fifth month of her pregnancy, went to the hospital for what she thought might be a urinary tract infection but she was shocked to learn that she was having labor contractions, according to her doctor. She told People that she and her husband were not yet prepared for the labor as she was still midway through the pregnancy, let alone what happened next because she gave birth to the "world's most premature infant."
Beth was due to give birth in October 2020, but her son arrived 131 days ahead of the date weighing just 11.9 ounces. At that time, doctors weren't optimistic about the baby's chances and even told the parents that Richard might not make it out of the hospital.
Very Sick Baby
Dr. Stacy Kern, the miracle baby's neonatologist, said that Richard was a very sick baby. The air sacs in his lungs weren't fully developed, and he needed to be on IV fluids so that oxygen could flow into his brain. He had many tubes attached to his tiny body, which was roughly the size of one palm.
Experts at the Department of Health and Human Services said that babies born before 22 weeks are usually not resuscitated if their health fails because even the facilities at the intensive care unit won't be able to help an immature body. Kern and her team prepared the Hutchinsons for the worst, knowing that they likely have just a short moment with Richard.
For days, Richard's oxygen levels declined until his mother was ready to let him go. But when Beth touched her son, the doctors saw his oxygen level rising.
"I guess he just needed his mom," Kern said.
On Day 65 at the hospital, Richard's breathing tube was removed for the first time. Slowly but surely, he made progress as his parents visited him every day. Days before Christmas, Richard was finally released at the hospital at six months old.
Doctors are still not clear on Richard's health limitations for the long term. For now, he has a feeding tube to stay nourished, and his parents have to monitor his oxygen levels through an oximeter machine regularly.
Beth said that the goal is to take Richard off all these gadgets and monitors eventually, but he's been doing amazing and showing good signs of health for now.
Though Richard's case is rare, another baby was born nearly 22 weeks into her gestation in Texas in 2014. Lyla Stensrud was only about 15 ounces during her birth and was also thought to have zero chances of survival.
The miracle baby has thrived as a healthy girl with advanced cognitive, motor, and language abilities as a toddler. She has no impairments in her hearing or vision and does not have cerebral palsy. CNN reported in 2017 that Lyla was in preschool.
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