CHICAGO — A premature infant believed to be the smallest baby ever to survive was called “a great blessing” Tuesday by her mother, who is preparing to take the little girl and her twin sister home from the hospital.
The baby, named Rumaisa, weighed 8.6 ounces when she was delivered Sept. 19 at Loyola University Medical Center — less than a can of soda. That is 1.3 ounces less than the previous record holder, who was born at the same hospital in 1989, according to hospital spokeswoman Sandra Martinez.
Rumaisa, her twin sister, Hiba, and their parents were introduced Tuesday at a news conference at the hospital in suburban Maywood. The girls were wrapped in identical striped blankets.
Mother rendered speechless
Their mother, Mahajabeen Shaik, said she didn’t “have the words to say how thankful I was” when she first got to hold her children, in their second month.
“It’s a blessing, it’s a great blessing,” Shaik said.
Hospital officials said they’re doing so well that Hiba, who weighed 1 pound and 4 ounces at birth, could be released from the hospital by the end of this month, with Rumaisa following as early as the first week of January.
“They’re maintaining their temperature, they don’t need an incubator. They’re taking their bottles. ... They’re normal babies,” said Dr. William MacMillan.
Rumaisa now weighs 2 pounds and 10 ounces. Her twin weighs 5 pounds.
Shaik, 23, developed pre-eclampsia, a disorder characterized by high blood pressure and other problems, during pregnancy. The condition affected Rumaisa in the womb and her mother’s health, prompting a Caesarean section at 25 weeks and 6 days. Normal gestation is 40 weeks.
Shaik and her husband, Mohammed Abdul Rahman, 32, said they are looking forward to bringing their children home. The couple, originally from Hyderabad, India, live in the suburb of Hanover Park.
‘She wants them to be doctors’
“We want them to be good human beings, good citizens, and she wants them to be doctors,” said Rahman, looking at his wife. “Doctors. Yes, of course, of course,” she said, laughing.
Both girls underwent laser surgery to correct vision problems common in premature babies, MacMillan said. Tests have shown that there is no bleeding in Rumaisa’s brain, another common complication in premature infants that can put them at risk for cerebral palsy.
Madeline Mann, the previous record holder as smallest known surviving preemie, returned to Loyola Hospital earlier this year for a celebration. Now 15, she was described as a lively honor student, though small for her age, at 4-feet-7.
According to the hospital, more than 1,700 newborns weighing less than two pounds have been cared for there in the past 20 years.
Stephen Davidow, a hospital spokesman, said a routine delivery costs about $6,000, while caring for a premature baby costs about $5,000 a day. Rumaisa, who has been in the hospital 90 days, is covered by Medicaid, hospital officials said.
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