Emilia Grabarczyk is becoming known across the world as the girl who lived.
The German baby is believed to be the smallest infant to ever survive outside the womb. Nine months after her birth, Emilia continues to beat the odds and grow stronger every day, the Telegraph reports.
When Emilia was born after just 26 weeks in the womb, she weighed only 8 ounces and measured 22 centimeters (8.7 inches). Her tiny foot was just 1 inch long.
Her whole life thus far has been a fight for survival, but doctors in Witten, Germany say her condition is improving. She now weighs 7 pounds, 2 ounces. Recently, parents Sabine and Lukas Grabarczyk were able to take their daughter home for the first time, German news outlets report.
Dr Bahman Gharavi, Head of Children and Youth Clinic at St Mary’s hospital, described her birth as truly unique, saying: “Even children with a birth weight of 14 ounces rarely survive. We have to thank Emilia as well for her own survival. She is a little fighter.
“For more than six months, it was unclear whether she would survive. Only in recent weeks she is getting more robust.”
As Emilia’s mother Sabine entered her 25th week of pregnancy nine months ago, she was warned by obstetrician Dr Sven Schiermeier that the placenta was failing to provide her child with enough nutrition. Without a caesarean, she would have died in the womb.
Emilia’s parents refused to accept the predictions that their daughter would die. They asked their doctors to do everything they could to save their baby girl’s life.
“What would the alternative have been?” Sabine asked. “There were many difficult days and many tears, but she clearly wanted to survive.”
Thanks to advances in medical technology, more premature babies like Emilia are surviving and outside the womb when they receive medical care.
A 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a significant number of babies are surviving even earlier than 24 weeks, which generally is considered the point of viability. Researchers followed almost 5,000 babies who were born before 27 weeks gestation and found that 23 percent of babies born at just 22 weeks gestation survived with treatment.
However, the study also found that some very premature babies are being denied life-saving medical treatment. Jennifer Popik, JD, a medical ethics attorney with National Right to Life, explained the problem is not a lack of medical equipment or the hospital’s capabilities but assumptions about the baby’s future “quality of life.” Premature babies often have disabilities as a result of their early birth.
“The assumption is evident: death is preferable to living with significant disability,” Popik wrote in 2015. “This bias persists despite the fact that, as the study documented, providing active treatment earlier did yield dramatically less severe impairments.”
Stories like Emilia’s are demonstrating how important it is that very premature babies receive medical care. When given the chance, many of these tiny babies are surviving and thriving outside the womb.