A baby boy who was born at just 22 weeks and was disabled for life defied all odds and began to walk and talk.
Eli James, now one year old, weighed just 1 pound 3 oz when he was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, last March. He was so small that a ring could fit on his wrist at his mother’s wedding.
Paloma Aguilar, 34, and her husband Eliesar, 45, were told that if their son survived, he would likely face permanent physical and mental disabilities. But after he was released from the ICU at the end of July, things started to get better for him.
Mrs. Aguilar said, ‘He’s starting to walk now and saying his first words – Daddy was the first. Everyone is surprised by his progress.’
Eli James was born at 22 weeks and weighed just 1 lb 3 oz. He was so small that his arms were the size of his mother’s fingers. He is pictured above in hospital shortly after birth
But after several months in the hospital and a steady supply of breast milk, the baby boy survived. He now starts to talk, his first word is ‘dadda’, and walks around his home in Las Vegas, Nevada
The baby spent several months in the hospital and was monitored 24 hours a day. The above image shows that his hand was so small that an entire ring could fit around it.
She added that her son was slightly smaller than other annuals, but caught up “quite quickly.”
Babies who are earlier than 22 weeks old are generally too physically underdeveloped to be successfully treated in intensive care and have almost no chance of survival.
But every year in the US about 5,000 babies are born in the uncertain period between 22 and 23 weeks, when the chances of survival are very low, but not zero.
Studies show that between a fifth and a third of babies born after 22 weeks and cared for in intensive care survive.
Eli – the youngest of four children – was born at 22 weeks and one day.
Ms Aguilar said her pregnancy was going according to plan until her water suddenly broke one day after a scan.
She said: ‘We had an ultrasound on a Friday when I was 22 weeks and everything seemed normal.
“Then my water broke at midnight that Friday night and early Saturday morning I went to the hospital.
“When I arrived, they told me I was three centimeters dilated and the baby was not viable.”
Doctors tried to help Ms Aguilar delay the birth, but warned that an infection put both mother and baby at risk.
She was diagnosed with chorioamnionitis, a bacterial infection of the fetal membranes surrounding the baby and in the placenta. It can also spread in the amniotic fluid, or the fluid that surrounds and protects the fetus.
Paloma Aguilar, 34, and husband Elisar, 45, pictured with baby Eli. He is their fourth child
His mom said part of what pulled her son through, pictured above, was a regular supply of fortified breast milk
Mrs Aguilar tried to delay the birth, but three days after her water broke, she gave birth to her son.
Speaking of the birth, Ms Aguilar said: ‘It was actually quite painful, even though he was small, because it happened so quickly.
So I had nothing to help me with the pain. He was just getting into bed when the nurse barely came to see me.
“They showed it to me before they took it away.”
The young family is pictured above. Eli survived at just 22 weeks of birth
Pictured above is Eli in the family home. He is now one year old
After birth, Mrs. Aguilar, her husband, and Eli faced an incredibly difficult time as the baby fought for his life.
She explained, “When I saw him, it was scary.
“But I’m always confident. I was confident that if he got this far, he was strong.
“Even getting a PICC line (used to administer medication and nutrition) in him was scary.
“The doctor told me they brought the smallest needle in the land, which was as thin as a lock of hair, and even that was too big to fit through his veins.”
Ms Aguilar said Eli’s incredible fight for his life lasted several months, and although he was ‘almost stable’, one night medics once again feared for his life.
“There was a point when he got really sick and they called us to the hospital at 3am because he wasn’t well,” she revealed.
“There were always ups and downs, but for the most part he was stable.”