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World’s smallest baby girl goes home from the hospital

PREMATURE, BABY, GIRL

OndroM | Shutterstock

Annalisa Teggi - published on 09/21/21

After 13 months of neonatal intensive care, little Kwek Yu Xuan can finally go home and start her life with her family.

After 13 months of neonatal intensive care and hospital corridors, little Kwek Yu Xuan can finally go home and start her life with her family.

She’s still tiny, but she looks giant compared to when she was born in a great hurry a year ago. There’s a registry of the smallest babies at birth, and she’s first on the list.

She was born in Singapore in June 2020. Weighing just 7.5 ounces (212 grams), she entered a world struggling with a pandemic. Yet every ominous prediction about her has been proven wrong.

There was no choice, but there was hope

Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that can be very dangerous for both mother and baby. This condition is characterized by an excessive rise in blood pressure and is what Wong Mei Ling was diagnosed with in her 25th week of pregnancy. Rushed to the National University Hospital in Singapore, she had no choice: The only hope for the baby she was carrying and herself to survive was an immediate C-section.

The birth of tiny Kwek Yu Xuan was therefore rushed, and the cold statistics weren’t on her side. The doctors prepared the family for the worst, as the chances of survival were very slim.

The most serious problem with such a premature birth (4 months ahead of term) was the underdevelopment of her lungs. Even today, a year later and with the worst behind her, the baby has, and will continue to need, respiratory support.

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Once the uncertain and indeed dramatic picture was clear, everyone rolled up their sleeves at the hospital. There was nothing left for the parents to do but cling to the strength of hope. The mother told The Straits Times,

“I didn’t expect to give birth so quickly, and we were very sad that Yu Xuan was born so small. But due to my condition, we didn’t have a choice. We could just hope that she would continue to grow (and be healthy).”

Adapting to a special patient

The hospital wasn’t (and couldn’t have been expected to be) equipped for a baby weighing just 7.5 ounces. The needles were too large, the doses of medicine had to be decreased, and the life support systems had to be adjusted.

Although Kwek Yu Xuan was very clear in her stubborn will to live, the medical team around her faced almost impossible challenges to support her. There was no manual for dealing with this situation, but with attempts suggested by personal creativity, they built a world around the newborn to her measure—very small!

Seeing the tiny girl arrive in the ward for the first time, even the head nurse, with all her professional experience, was tempted to raise the white flag. Just take the diapers, for example: The smallest size was bigger than the baby, and there were no companies able to provide diapers for such tiny preemies. It wasn’t enough to cut them to the right size; they had to tailor them in such a way that the urine wouldn’t leak out and come into contact with the skin.

The same specificity was needed for all the medical aspects of care. The Straits Times reports:

Dr Yvonne Ng, a senior consultant at the neonatology department, said, “Her daily care was the main crux of the matter, especially for the first two weeks of life … We needed to innovate and find some improvised methods to deal with a baby this small because this is the first time we experienced somebody this tiny. She was so small that even the calculation for the medication had to be down to the decimal points.”

For more than a year, the hospital has been Kwek Yu Xuan’s home. She has grown, and today weighs over 13 pounds. By many criteria, she’s still small, but she’s ready to live with her parents and without ongoing medical care.

Her presence for 13 months in the wards of NUH in Singapore has discombobulated and changed everyone. The BBC reports:

“Against the odds, with health complications present at birth, she has inspired people around her with her perseverance and growth, which makes her an extraordinary ‘Covid-19’ baby — a ray of hope amid turmoil,” the hospital said in a statement.

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Children
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