Two Iowa sisters just made a Guinness World Record for being the smallest premature twins ever to survive.
On Sunday, Keeley and Kambry Ewoldt celebrated their 1st birthday after being born at 22 weeks and 1 day of pregnancy, according to Guinness World Records. At birth, the little girls weighed just 1 pound 1.3 ounces and 13.4 ounces, respectively.
Today, the girls are a living miracle and a testament to the life-saving advances of modern medicine.
“It’s really just a work of God that they are even here because there is so much that they’ve defied to be here,” their mother, Jade Ewoldt, told the record-keeping company.
Ewoldt said she was 16 weeks pregnant with the twins when doctors diagnosed them with twin-twin transfusion syndrome, a rare disorder that threatened the girls’ lives, the AP reports.
Just a week later, the family traveled to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for a special in-utero surgery that potentially would save the girls’ lives, according to the report. Unfortunately, one of the risks of the surgery was premature birth.
On Nov. 23, Ewoldt’s water broke at exactly 22 weeks of pregnancy. During the ambulance ride to the hospital, she said the emergency responders told her that they would not be able to treat her daughters if they were born on the ambulance.
But Ewoldt and her husband Wesley’s prayers were answered, and the girls stayed in the womb for another day. When they arrived on Nov. 24, they were placed in the care of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in Iowa City, Iowa, which is nationally known for its care of very premature babies, or micro-preemies.
Dr. Jonathan M. Klein, neonatologist and medical director of the NICU, said there is more hope now than ever before for babies born at 22 weeks of pregnancy.
“For 22-week babies to survive, it’s incredibly rare,” he said. “Nationally, survival is around 10 percent. Here at (UIHC), our survival rate over the last 10 years is 65 percent, 650 percent higher than the national average.
“Many places consider babies less than 24 weeks incapable of survival. But we know it’s possible. And it’s one of those things we are now getting more recognition for nationally,” Klein continued.
Also encouraging, Klein said long-term disabilities are not common. He said the hospital follows up with premature babies years afterward, and it has found that only about 10 percent have a long-term disability such as blindness, deafness or cognitive disabilities, according to the AP.
So far, he said Keeley and Kambry have not shown signs of disabilities.
“In these girls, we’ve not seen that. The odds are in their favor,” Klein said.
Jade Ewoldt said the girls still are on oxygen, but that is common for children born as early as they were.
“They ween the oxygen down as the baby gets older and stronger and capable of breathing on their own air a lot more,” she told Guinness. “They are doing great. Being at home, they are becoming more like four-to-six-month-old babies.”
The Ewoldts hope their daughters’ story will encourage other families facing similar troubles.
“I know just sharing the girl’s story has already helped other people,” their mother said. “For me, I love advocating. I’m never going to stop. And just to reach more people. Even through this platform just means so much to me personally. I’m just so grateful to have such a large platform to share their story.
“The world is so uneducated on the survival of babies being born this early and how they can go on to be intelligent and capable of so much. I’m really excited to share this to help others save their babies,” she continued.
According to Guinness, the survival rate for premature babies born at 22 weeks is about 14 percent. However, research indicates that survival rates are growing.
Recent studies out of Duke University and the New England Journal of Medicine have found that a growing percent of premature infants are surviving as early as 22 weeks of pregnancy. The research recently prompted the British Association of Medicine to issue new guidelines encouraging medical treatment for babies born at just 22 weeks of pregnancy. Previously, the guidelines did not recommend treatment until 24 weeks.
The smallest recorded surviving baby weighed less than 9 ounces at birth. Born in California in December 2018, baby Saybie was deemed well enough to go home in May.
The earliest known premature baby to survive outside the womb was born at 21 weeks and four days of pregnancy. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the girl’s survival story.