A baby boy who was born at just 22 weeks and faced a lifetime of disability has defied the odds and started to walk and talk.
Eli James, now a year old, weighed just 1lb 3oz when he was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, in March last year. He was so small his mother’s wedding a ring could fit on his wrist.
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 being discharged from the ICU in late July, he has gone from strength to strength.
Mrs Aguilar said: ‘He’s starting to walk right now and saying his first words – Dadda was the first. Everyone has been surprised with his progress.’
Eli James was born at 22 weeks weighing just 1lb 3oz. He was so small that his arms were the same size as his mother’s fingers. He is pictured above in hospital shortly after birth
But after several months in hospital and a steady supply of breast milk the youngster survived. He is now starting to talk, with his first word being ‘dadda’, and walks around his home in Las Vegas, Nevada
The baby spent several months in hospital receiving round-the-clock monitoring. The above image shows his hand was so small that an entire ring could fit over it.
She added that her son was a little smaller than other one-year-olds but was catching up ‘quite fast’.
Babies born earlier than 22 weeks are generally too physically underdeveloped to be successfully treated with intensive care and have almost no chance of survival.
But each year in the US about 5,000 babies are born in the uncertain window between 22 and 23 weeks, when chances of survival are very low but not zero.
Studies indicate that between a fifth and third of babies born at 22 weeks and given intensive care survive.
Eli – the youngest of four children – was born at 22 weeks and one day.
Mrs Aguilar said her pregnancy had been going to plan until her waters suddenly broke one day after a scan.
She said: ‘We had an ultrasound one Friday when I was 22 weeks, and everything appeared normal.
‘Then my water broke that Friday evening, at midnight, and early Saturday morning, I went to the hospital.
‘When I arrived, they told me that I was three centimeters dilated and that the baby was not viable.’
Doctors tried to help Mrs Aguilar to delay the birth, but warned that an infection was putting 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 into the amniotic fluid, or the liquid that surrounds and protects the fetus.
Paloma Aguilar, 34, and her husband Eliesar, 45, pictured with baby Eli. He is their fourth child
His mother said that 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 waters broke, she gave birth to her son.
Speaking about the birth, Mrs Aguilar said: ‘It was actually quite painful even though he was small, because it happened so fast.
‘So I didn’t have anything to help me with the pain. He just came out on the bed when the nurse was barely coming in to see me.
‘They showed him to me briefly before taking him away.’
The young family is pictured above. Eli survived after being born at just 22 weeks
Pictured above is Eli at the family home. He has now turned one year old
After the birth, Ms Aguilar, her husband and Eli faced an incredibly difficult time as the infant fought for his life.
She explained: ‘When I saw him, it was scary.
‘But I always have faith. I had faith that if he made it this far, that he was strong.
‘Even getting a PICC line [used to administer medication and nutrition] in him was scary.
‘The doctor told me that they had brought in the smallest needle in the country, which was as thin as a piece of hair, and even that was too big to fit through his veins.’
Ms Aguilar said that Eli’s incredible fight for his life lasted several months, and while he was ‘mostly stable’, one evening, medics once again feared for his life.
‘There was one point where he like got really sick, and they called us at three in the morning to the hospital because he wasn’t doing well,’ she revealed.
‘There was always ups and downs, but for the most part, he was he was stable.’