Melinda Star Guido weighed roughly the same as two iPhones when was born 16 weeks premature at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Centre on August 30. She was due today.
But after round the clock care at the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Melinda is now tipping the scales at 4.12lb and her parents hope to have her home by New Year’s Day.
Her mother, Haydee Ibarra, 22, told LA Now: ‘She was always fighting, all the nurses were saying that she was really feisty, she was always fighting for her life.’
Miss Ibarra had to deliver Melinda by Caesarian section at just 24 weeks because of a high blood pressure disorder that both their lives at risk.
She weighed just 270g (9.5oz) at birth making her, according to figures from the Global Birth Registry, the third smallest baby ever to be born and survive until her due date.
So small she could fit into the palm of her doctor’s hand, Melinda has spent the first few, crucial months cocooned in an incubator in the LA County’s NICU.
Almost every day, her mother would spend all day sat by her bedside, and stayed overnight whenever she was able to.
During her pregnancy, Miss Ibarra suffered from high blood pressure, which can be dangerous for both mother and foetus.
She was transferred from a hospital near her San Fernando Valley home to the county’s flagship hospital, which was better equipped to handle high-risk pregnancies.
There was a problem with the placenta, the organ that nourishes the developing foetus. Melinda was not getting proper nutrition, blood and oxygen.
Melinda was delivered by caesarean section at 24 weeks and was immediately transferred to the NICU where a team of doctors and nurses kept watch around the clock.
Doctors knew Melinda would weigh less than a pound, but they were surprised at how small and fragile she was.
Dr. Rangasamy Ramanathan, who oversees premature infants, told the Associated Press: ‘The first few weeks, it was touch and go. None of us thought the baby was going to make it,’
Even if she survived, doctors told Miss Ibarra and her husband Yovani Guido, children born this extremely premature can have developmental delays and impairments such as blindness, deafness or cerebral palsy.
Miss Ibarra, who previously had a stillborn, told doctors to do whatever necessary to help her baby.
‘They said, “We’ll take the chance. Please try.” So we said. “OK we’ll try,”‘ said Dr Ramanathan.
Kept insulated in the incubator, Melinda was hooked up to a machine to aid her breathing. She got nutrition through a feeding tube.
Her mother said her skin felt like plastic because it was so thin. A month after she was born, she was treated for an eye disorder that’s common in premature babies.
But Melinda faced her biggest test last month when she underwent surgery to close an artery that usually seals after birth.
Miss Ibarra held her baby for the first time after the surgery. Before that, she could only touch her through the incubator.
Dr Ramanathan told AP that Melinda, who holds the record for survival at a low birth weight at the hospital, was the department’s ‘star baby’.
‘[She was the] smallest baby in our unit in the last 30 years at 9oz,’ he said. ‘How big is the Coke can? Eight ounce coke can.
‘So the baby was just an ounce more than the Coke can. That’s what I tell everybody. Now the baby weighs eight times what she weighed.
‘We have had babies at 23 weeks, but 24 weeks and weighing 270g, that’s a miracle for us.’
Dr Edward Bell of the University of Iowa keeps an online database of the world’s smallest surviving babies who were less than a pound at birth.
‘It takes a lot of good care and a lot of good luck. Most of them don’t survive,’ he told the Associated Press.
The list currently contains 126 babies dating back to 1936. Since submission is voluntary, it does not represent all survivors.
Ten babies weighing less than a pound were born last year and survived. Melinda joins three other tiny survivors delivered this year in Berkeley; Seoul, South Korea; and Iowa City, Iowa.
All are bigger than Melinda, who is not eligible to be listed until she gets discharged.
Melinda is still being fed nutrients through feeding tubes and being cared for in an incubator but, now at a healthy weight, she will soon be allowed to go home.
Dr Ramanathan said it’s too early to know how Melinda will fare when she grows up. Since she did not have major complications such as bleeding in the brain, he held out hope.
Melinda can breathe by herself, but still uses an oxygen tube as a precaution. On Wednesday, an ophthalmologist checked out her eyes and said everything looked good.
Speaking to the AP, Miss Ibarra added: ‘She’s been through a lot and she’s made it. A lot of people doubted her. They thought that she wasn’t going to make it.
‘She’s a little miracle to me.’