CHICAGO (AP) — A premature infant believed to be the smallest baby ever to survive was called “a great blessing” yesterday by her mother, who is preparing to take the little girl and her twin sister home from the hospital.
The baby, named Rumaisa, weighed 8.6 ounces — less than a can of soda — when she was delivered by Caesarean section Sept. 19 at Loyola University Medical Center. That is 1.3 ounces smaller than the previous record holder, who was born at the same hospital in 1989, hospital spokeswoman Sandra Martinez said.
Rumaisa and her twin, Hiba, were bundled in identical striped blankets yesterday when they were introduced with their parents during a press conference at the hospital.
Their mother, Mahajabeen Shaik, said she didn’t “have the words to say how thankful I was” when she first got to hold her children.
“It’s a blessing, it’s a great blessing,” she said.
Hospital officials said they are doing so well that Hiba, who weighed 1 pound and 4 ounces at birth, could be released from the hospital by the end of this month, with Rumaisa following as early as the first week of January.
Rumaisa now weighs 2 pounds, 10 ounces. Her twin weighs 5 pounds.
“They’re maintaining their temperature; they don’t need an incubator. They’re taking their bottles,” said Dr. William MacMillan. “They’re normal babies.”
Mrs. Shaik, 23, developed pre-eclampsia, a disorder characterized by high blood pressure and other problems, during pregnancy. The condition endangered Rumaisa and her mother, prompting a Caesarean section at 26 weeks.
Dr. Jonathan Muraskas, a professor of neonatal-perinatal medicine, said several factors may have improved the babies’ chances of survival. Babies born before 23 weeks do not have fully developed lungs and usually are not viable, but those born before the 25th week can survive.
Dr. Muraskas said girls are also more likely to survive than boys when born at less than 13 ounces.
He said the twins were placed on ventilators for a few weeks and fed intravenously for a week or two until nurses could give them breast milk through feeding tubes. They were able to start drinking from bottles after 10 weeks.
Ultrasound tests have shown no bleeding in Rumaisa’s brain, a common complication in premature babies that can raise the risk of cerebral palsy. Both girls also underwent laser surgery to correct vision problems common in preemies.
Mrs. Shaik and her husband, Mohammed Abdul Rahman, 32, said they were looking forward to taking their children home. The couple, originally from Hyderabad, India, live in the Chicago suburb of Hanover Park.
“We want them to be good human beings, good citizens, and she wants them to be doctors,” said Mr. Rahman, looking at his wife.