Miracle Baby Born Two Months Early is Heading Home for Christmas

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 16, 2022   |   5:57PM   |   Washington, DC

A Florida family is celebrating a Christmas miracle that they spent five years hoping and waiting for: a son named Ethan.

WMBB reports Ethan Hendricks was born two months prematurely on Nov. 11 at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast in Miramar Beach. After overcoming a number of medical problems, the little baby boy is expected to be well enough to go home for Christmas next week.

“We tried to have a baby for five years,” his parents told WMBB. “We went through a lot of loss, a lot of doctor’s appointments, and a lot of just emotions and frustration from the whole infertility journey.”

Fawn and Bryan Hendricks said they decided to name their son after the main character in “Mission Impossible,” one of their favorite movies, according to the report. About three years ago, they said they were watching the movie again and decided, “You know what? We love this movie so much. We should name our son Ethan if we ever have a boy.”

Ethan’s weight recently surpassed 5 pounds, and his health continues to improve daily. His parents said they decided to wait to decorate for Christmas until they can take him home with them — likely within the next week.

Two years ago, the hospital where Ethan is, Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast, opened the first neonatal intensive care unit in the area, and recently expanded to care for premature babies born weighing less than 3 pounds, according to the report.

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“It’s great because it enables us to take care of more patients in their community without having to travel a long distance to seek neonatal care,” Dr. Philip Tatum, a neonatologist, told the news outlet. “So, we’re able to take care of the smaller babies who are often in the hospital for much longer.”

More premature babies are surviving and thriving thanks to modern medicine. In 2021, 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 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.

More hospitals are expanding care for very premature babies, too, as research shows more are surviving and thriving.

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.