Premature Baby Born at 21 Weeks and the Size of a Soda Can Defies the Odds, Turns 1

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jul 19, 2018   |   10:46AM   |   Kansas City, Missouri

Eliora “Ellie” Schneider arrived from her mother’s womb so early that most hospitals in her Kansas City, Missouri home could not treat her.

Born after just 21 weeks of pregnancy and just a little bigger than a can of soda, Ellie had a slim chance of survival, KSHB 41 News reports. But her parents had faith, and the doctors at Saint Luke’s Hospital worked hard to save the tiny infant’s life.

In June, Ellie and her family celebrated her first birthday.

Robin Schneider told the local news her daughter is doing well: She can crawl and sit up on her own. While she still uses an oxygen machine at night and goes to physical therapy regularly, Ellie’s health is better than expected, her mother said.

“21 weeks and 6 days. We thought this was it, you know, we were going to lose our sweetie,” Robin Schneider said, describing Ellie as their “miracle” baby.

Ellie weighed just 14 ounces and measured 10.4 inches at birth. She arrived on June 27; her due date was Nov. 1.

Looking back on their traumatic year, the family wrote on Facebook this week:

“The baby here and Eliora as we know her now are two completely different babies. This little girl was so, so sick, in constant pain, barely hanging on, and tiny as a baby bird. Our Ellie now is happy, healthy, and rolly as can be. In similar ways we have all changed on the inside. My heart was so weak, but now I know I can face anything, as long as I have God and good friends.”

Dr. Barbara Carr, a neonatologist who worked with Ellie, said the hospital has had a high success rate for micro-premies (babies born before 24 weeks) after it began treating them in 2017. She said the babies’ survival rate has been about 50 percent, much higher than the national average.

“She had all the odds stacked against her,” Carr said of Ellie. “She had parents that had a very deep faith. They just continued to believe, we all kept working on and continuing to believe in her and she did well.”

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The earliest known premature baby to survive outside the womb beat Ellie by just two days. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted a baby girl in the United States who survived after being born 21 weeks and four days after conception. The girl, who now is 3, is believed to be the youngest premature baby to survive.

Research published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine also found that 23 percent of premature infants are surviving as early as 22 weeks of pregnancy. However, the study also found that some hospitals do not treat babies at this early age.

Stories like Ellie’s are prompting more to start. Carr noted that since Ellie’s birth, more hospitals in the Kansas City area also have begun treating micro-premies.

A Duke University study published in 2017 reported that babies born at just 23 weeks gestation are surviving outside the womb at a greater rate than ever before. Researchers examined 4,500 babies between 2000 and 2011 and found a “small but significant drop in fatalities for babies born between 23 and 37 weeks gestation,” as well as a decrease in premature babies manifesting neurophysiological problems, the Daily Mail reported.

These encouraging numbers also are having an impact on the abortion debate. A number of U.S. states and countries, such as England, prohibit most abortions after 24 weeks, because that once was considered the point of viability. However, as modern medicine continues to push back the viability point, some people are re-thinking their positions about when human life deserves to be protected.