At only 21 weeks and 4 days old, the odds were frighteningly stacked up against this baby. Although her chances of survival were slim, she not only pulled through but is now a thriving 3-year-old, and is perhaps the most premature known survivor to date.
In 2014, Courtney Stensrud’s baby girl was born at 21 weeks and 4 days into her pregnancy. This placed her in a very difficult situation, as most pediatricians would agree that 22 weeks of gestation is the lowest threshold of viability, and many doctors don’t recommend resuscitating babies born younger than 22 weeks.
In the antepartum room at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, Stensrud searched for stories about mothers who gave birth at 21 weeks. She told CNN: “There were stories of 22-weekers, 23-weekers, but nothing about 21-weekers. So I knew that there was little to no survival or viability at 21 weeks.”
After Stensrud gave birth, Dr. Kaashif Ahmad, a MEDNAX-affiliated neonatologist at the hospital, emphasized that there’s a minimal chance of survival, and he seemed slightly against resuscitating the baby at first.
But Stensrud felt otherwise. “Although I was listening to him, I just felt something inside of me say, ‘Just have hope and have faith.’ It didn’t matter to me that she was 21 weeks and four days. I didn’t care,” she said.
“As he was talking to me, I just said, ‘Will you try?’ And he said he would, and three years later, we have our little miracle baby.”
Although Dr. Ahmad wasn’t expecting to resuscitate a 21-week-old premature baby, he was compelled to do so seeing Stensrud’s determination, and began a vigorous resuscitation, despite current medical knowledge indicating that chances of survival were close to zero.
“So we placed her under an overhead warmer, we listened, and we heard her heart rate, which we were not necessarily expecting,” said Dr. Ahmad.
“We immediately placed a breathing tube in her airway. We started giving her oxygen, and really pretty quickly, her heart rate began to rise. She very slowly changed colors from blue to pink, and she actually began to move and began to start breathing within a few minutes.”
A miracle was born.
According to a paper published in the journal Pediatrics, this lucky girl could very well be the most premature known survivor to date. Stensrud is a happy mother, and she hopes that her case will give hope to other mothers facing similar problems.
“I don’t tell her story a lot, but when I do, people are amazed,” said Stensrud, who’s now 35. “If there’s another woman in antepartum that is searching Google, they can find this story and they can find a little bit of hope and a little bit of faith.”
Stensrud shares that her daughter is doing very well. “If you didn’t know that she was so preemie, you would think she’s a normal three-year-old.
“In her school, she is keeping up with all the other three-year-olds. She loves playing with other kids.
“She loves everything I think a normal three-year-old likes.
“She loves her baby dolls, she loves books, and she loves make-believe.”
Stensrud requested CNN not to publish her daughter’s name or current photos to respect the family’s privacy. The main thing is, her 3-year-old daughter is now a healthy preschooler … thanks to Dr. Ahmad’s medical expertise, and her amazing mother’s faith.