A British infant who was born weighing less than 2 pounds grew well enough to go home with his parents this summer.
Murphy Russell was born after just 24 weeks in the womb, the legal abortion limit in the UK, the Daily Mail reports. Doctors estimated that his chance of survival was 50 percent, but the tiny baby boy fought hard to live.
Murphy is a miracle for his parents, Joanne and Richard Russell, of Oakenshaw, England. The couple said they struggled to become pregnant and lost an unborn baby to miscarriage in 2017, according to the report.
When Joanne became pregnant with Murphy, she said she thought things were going well. She said the first five months appeared normal, but in January, she suddenly went into premature labor. Doctors delivered Murphy by emergency cesarean section on Jan. 24 after Joanne suffered through nearly 13 hours of labor, the report states.
“Going from no signs at all to giving birth was unbelievable. It’s difficult to put into words, it was just blind panic,” she recalled.
Her son weighed just 1 pound 11 ounces at birth. Immediately, he was taken to intensive care where the team placed him in a plastic bag to keep him warm and his skin hydrated, the report continues.
“You get a quick look at the baby and they’re rushed off,” Joanne said.
For a while, she said they could not even hold their son; they only could look at him through the incubator as he fought to overcome a brain bleed and low heart rate.
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In total, Murphy spent 14 weeks in the hospital before going home earlier this summer. His parents said he still uses an oxygen tube to breathe, and he may have cerebral palsy. Still, Murphy is alive and growing stronger every day.
The survival rate for very premature babies is increasing. Currently, it is about 60 percent for babies born at 24 weeks, according to the report. However, even younger premature babies now are surviving outside the womb as well.
In May, a baby girl in California was released from the hospital after she was born weighing just 9 ounces. Saybie is believed to be the smallest premature baby ever to survive.
The earliest known premature baby to survive outside the womb was born at 21 weeks and four days. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the girl’s survival story. She was 3 at the time of the article’s publication.
A Duke University study published in 2017 reported that babies born at just 23 weeks 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 at the time.
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.