The Guinness Book of World Records has just recorded the case of a baby boy born prematurely and still alive: Curtis Zy-Keith Means was born at 21 weeks and 1 day old. The boy was born weighing only 420 grams and could lie almost completely in the palm of the doctor’s hand.
Normally, full-term babies spend 40 weeks or 280 days in the womb. That means Curtis was born 19 weeks premature, or 132 days.
“Doctors tell me they usually don’t save premature babies at that age“, Chelly Butler, the boy’s mother shared.They didn’t know if he would survive, so they just told me to keep praying.”
Chelly Butler and Curtis at the time of the boy’s birth.
The magical story begins around February 2020, when Chelly found out she was pregnant. She took care of herself, went to the doctor regularly, and received a due date of 11 November 2020.
But on July 4, Chelly suddenly felt terrible pain and had to be hospitalized. Doctors at the local hospital knew there was nothing they could do about the case, so they transferred her to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), which has one of the top neonatal care departments in the US. .
Immediately, a caesarean section for pregnant women was performed. Curtis was born at around 1:00 p.m. on July 5, 2020, in the presence of one of the most experienced pediatricians in the United States.
“The statistics say that babies of this age cannot survive“, said Dr. Brian Sims, who directly supervised Chelly and Curtis’ surgery.But mothers always ask me one question: Is it possible to give my child a chance?
“We ourselves had never placed such a young child in the neonatal intensive care unit. This boy is actually the first. We knew we were entering an uncharted territory.”
At the time of his birth, Curtis was only one-seventh the weight of a normal newborn.
The World Health Organization (WHO) previously defined a premature baby as a baby born between 37 weeks’ gestation and up to 22 weeks’ gestation. The more prematurely the baby is born, the higher the mortality rate due to incomplete development. The most dangerous is that the baby’s lungs have not yet matured to be able to breathe and breathe air.
Therefore, premature babies are very susceptible to respiratory failure and death. Nine out of 10 babies born prematurely at 22 weeks will not survive. Statistics for younger age groups are not even available. Colm Travers, an associate professor and doctor at the Department of Neonatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said that at 21 weeks of gestation, Curtis had only a 1% lower chance of survival, or even many times lower, approximately the same number. 0.
“Survival at this gestational age has never happened before“, he said.Initially Curtis needed a lot of respiratory support. We took heart and lung medication to keep him alive.
But to the surprise of all the doctors, the boy Curtis responded very well to the treatment. “The boy initially showed a response to oxygen, his heart rate increased, his vitals both increased.“, said Dr. Brian.He’s given us a lot of positive feedback, a message that … he wants to survive.”
After a few weeks, Curtis’s condition got better and better. Doctors were able to gradually reduce the life support measures for the boy. “When Curtis was 3 months old, we were finally able to get him off the ventilator. It was a very special moment for me.”, said Dr. Travers.
Dr. Brian Sims, who supervised the surgery and provided direct care for Curtis.
Finally, after exactly 275 days in the intensive care unit, young Curtis was healthy enough to be discharged home. Although he still had to adhere to a special course of medication such as bottled oxygen and feeding through a feeding tube, it was still a memorable milestone in his extraordinary journey.
On July 5, 2021, Curtis celebrated his first birthday at home with his family. Also at this point, the boy qualified to be the world’s most premature baby and survived. It was Dr. Travers who then helped Curtis and his family prepare the dossier for submission to Guinness. They appraised and confirmed Curtis in their World Book of Records.
On November 11, his expected birthday, if Curtis was born at his age, he received a gift of an official certificate from Guinness. “I’m so proud of him, where he started and his journey to where he is now.”, said Curtis’ mother. “Having this record is a real blessing for him.”
Curtis received a special gift on 11/11/2021, which should have been his 1st birthday.
And surprisingly, Curtis was born exactly one month after the previous record holder was Richard Hutchinson from Wisconsin. Richard was born at 21 weeks 2 days, 131 days premature, on June 5, 2020.
However, what is more amazing is that before Richard, this record has not been broken for 34 years. James Elgin Gill, a Canadian boy who survived at 21 weeks and 5 days, was born in 1987.
Finally, it is impossible not to mention the miraculous story of Curtis also has a deep sadness. That boy actually had a twin sister. His mother Chelly gave birth to twins, and baby C’Asya Means was born just a moment after Curtis.
Doctors at the University of Alabama also tried their best, but the less developed girl did not respond to treatment as her brother did. C’Asya Means then passed away just a day after being admitted to the intensive care unit.
This once again shows how dire the odds of preterm births are. Curtis himself will still face many challenges ahead. Babies born prematurely will often grow up with several illnesses, especially problems with the lungs.
But Chelly and the doctors have faith that Curtis will keep going. “In my 20-year career, I’ve never seen a kid as strong as Curtis. There’s something very special about this boy.“, said Dr. Brian.
Refer to Guinnessworldrecords