Born 3 Months Early, Heleigh Was 10th Smallest Premature Baby Ever. She Just Graduated

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 26, 2022   |   4:48PM   |   Evansville, Indiana

When Haleigh Shadrick was born three months prematurely, she weighed only 10.9 ounces and her chances of survival were not good.

But today, the Evansville, Indiana young woman is graduating from high school – another milestone in her already miraculous life, WFIE Gray News reports.

Shadrick holds the record as the 10th smallest premature baby in the world to survive, according to the report.

Her mother, Leslie Shadrick, said her daughter’s life is a miracle and a blessing despite all the obstacles that she has had to overcome.

Here’s more from the report:

[As an infant,] she spent months in intensive care. She has cerebral palsy, mild hearing loss, pervasive developmental disorder and a feeding disorder that delayed her growth.

Despite the challenges, Haleigh, now 22 years old and 62 lbs., has earned her high school diploma.

“We hate to see her leave because we know she’s safe here and things have been great here,” her mother Leslie Shadrick said. “We’re also proud to be able to move on to the next step.”

Success stories like Haleigh’s are becoming more common as premature babies who once would have been considered non-viable are now surviving and thriving, thanks to modern medicine.

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In November, Guinness World Records recognized an Alabama boy who was born at 21 weeks as the youngest premature baby to survive. Curtis Means was born weighing 14.8 ounces at 21 weeks and one day in July 2020. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the story of another girl who survived after being born at 21 weeks and four days of pregnancy.

A California baby girl is believed to be the smallest premature baby to survive. She was born weighing just 8.6 ounces in December 2018.

A Duke University study published in 2017 reported that babies born at 23 weeks of pregnancy 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.