Four-year-old Lyla Stensrud is a medical miracle.
The Texas preschooler is believed to be the youngest documented premature baby to ever survive, and today she is thriving at home with her family, NBC reports.
Four years ago in July 2014, doctors thought it was nearly impossible for her to survive. Lyla was born after 21 weeks and four days in the womb, weighing just 14.4 ounces, according to her mother’s blog.
Her mother, Courtney Stensrud, who recently opened up about their journey, said she hopes their story will give hope to other families with preemies.
In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the Lyla’s story but did not provide her name. The report hailed her as the youngest premature baby to survive.
Stensrud said her pregnancy with Lyla appeared normal until her 20 week ultrasound scan. She told NBC that she immediately knew something was wrong by the look on her OB-GYN’s face. Her doctor told her that her placenta was thinning and beginning to detach. She said she also developed an infection of the amniotic fluid called chorioamnionitis.
Several days later, Lyla was born.
Immediately afterward, Stensrud said she and her husband had to decide whether they wanted doctors to try to save their daughter. Some hospitals do not give families that option, but their San Antonio hospital did.
Here’s more from the report:
She had a few moments to research whether a baby born that early could live and knew it wasn’t possible.
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“But when I was holding a live baby in my arms, I just absolutely thought she could survive. I felt it in my heart,” Stensrud said.
When [neonatologist Dr. Kaashif] Ahmad found out the pregnancy was estimated to be just 21 weeks and four days along, he quickly counselled her about the baby’s dire prospects. Infants delivered before 22 weeks’ gestation are too premature to survive, he said. Their lungs are so underdeveloped that it’s near impossible to deliver oxygen into their bodies.
Many micro-preemies also have long-term disabilities such as cerebral palsy, neurological problems and trouble with vision. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against resuscitating infants as premature as Lyla, arguing it is “not in the best interests of the child.”
But the Stensruds took a chance and prayed for a miracle.
“Although I was listening to him, I just felt something inside of me say, ‘Just have hope and have faith,’” she said. “It didn’t matter to me that she was 21 weeks and 4 days. I didn’t care. As he was talking to me, I just said, ‘Will you try?’ And he said he would, and [four] years later, we have our little miracle baby.”
Ahmad agreed to try, and Lyla responded well to the treatments.
“We put that super tiny tube down and it fit,” Ahmad told NBC. “If it had not fit, we wouldn’t have been able to resuscitate her. But she was just big enough.”
Later, they “placed her under an overhead warmer, we listened, and we heard her heart rate, which we were not necessarily expecting,” he said. “We immediately placed a breathing tube in her airway. We started giving her oxygen, and really pretty quickly, her heart rate began to rise. She very slowly changed colors from blue to pink, and she actually began to move and began to start breathing within a few minutes.”
Lyla spent four months in the hospital before she was well enough to go home. Today, despite doctors’ predictions, she does not have any medical issues. Her parents said she is a healthy, happy 4-year-old who attends preschool with other children her age.
Stensrud said she wants their story to bring hope to other parents of micro-preemies.
“The reason I’m doing these interviews — it’s not for me, it’s not for my daughter. It’s for that mother in antepartum who is frantically searching online — that she will have a little bit of hope and faith that she can have the same outcome,” she said.
She also hopes Lyla’s survival will convince other hospitals to re-think their policies about not resuscitating very premature infants. Research published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 23 percent of premature infants survive as early as 22 weeks of pregnancy, but some hospitals have policies against treating babies at this early age.
“Hospitals are known for having a policy in which they decide without accessing each individual situation what point resuscitation is allowed and most of those are well after 21 weeks,” Stensrud wrote on her blog. “My hope for the future and by way of this blog is to expel these policies!”