Born at 21 Weeks, Youngest Surviving Premature Baby in the World Now Heading Home

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jun 24, 2020   |   6:49PM   |   Decatur, Georgia

The parents of Jemarius Jachin Harbor Jr. call him their Christmas miracle.

Born on Dec. 20 at Emory Hospital in Decatur, Georgia, Jemarius is believed to be the youngest premature baby to survive outside the womb, according to Live Action News. He was born at 21 weeks, zero days gestation – beating the previous record-holder by four days.

Jemarius overcame numerous medical complications and, earlier this month, was deemed well enough to go home with his parents, according to a Go Fund Me page set up to help the family.

His mother, Jessica McPherson, of Jonesboro, has a history of premature labor. She said two

of her other babies died when she went into labor at 22 weeks of pregnancy.

So when Jemarius arrived on Dec. 20, she and her fiance, Jemarius Harbor Sr., urged doctors to save their son’s life, no matter what it took, according to the report.

“We looked at each other in the eye and I told him just give it a try,” McPherson told Fox5 Atlanta. “I just want you to try. As long as you try, that’s all that matters to me. Don’t just up and say that you can’t do it. Just ‘cause you haven’t done it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

Still, Jemarius’s chances were slim. He weighed only 13 ounces and his lungs were underdeveloped, among other problems.

Gina Phillips, director of medical services at Pregnancy Aid Clinics, which helps mothers and premature babies, said the survival rate for babies born at 21 weeks is less than 4%.

“At 22 weeks some are surviving but 21 weeks is a very rarity …” Phillips told the news outlet.

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McPherson and her fiance know how special it is that their son survived. Because he was born so close to Christmas, they call him their “Christmastime miracle,” according to the local news.

Modern medical advances are enabling younger and smaller premature babies to survive and thrive. 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.

Until Jemarius, 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.

Research published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine 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.