Born at 21 Weeks, This Boy Just Became the World's Most Premature Baby

A survivor under one lb.
Ameya Paleja
Curtis with his World Record Certificate.Guinness World Records

Michelle Butler's pregnancy was progressing smoothly until July 4, 2020, when she had to be rushed to a local hospital after she went into labor in mid-pregnancy. The next day, she delivered twins after just 21 weeks and one day of gestation, and the hope for their survival was slim. The baby girl passed away a day later, but the baby boy, Curtis, has gone on to become a Guinness World Record holder and he is just over one year old. 

Credit for this also goes to the medical team at the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU) at the University of Alabama Hospital at Birmingham. The team of experts at the center also carries out research in the area of perviability - infants born at the limits of viability. Gestation in humans regularly progresses to 40 weeks or 280 days. So, when the twins were born, they were not even at the halfway mark. Statistically, these chances of survival were less than one percent. 

The medical team immediately put the twins on the Golden Week Program, a multi-disciplinary attempt to provide various aspects of life support ranging from regulation of body temperature, food and fluid intake, and preventing infections, a university press release said. Curtis' sister did not respond to the intervention but Curtis defied the odds and survived the first week and very soon, he was a month old. 

On breathing support, the medical team gave Curtis medications to support his heart and lungs and by the time he was three months old, the medical team was able to take him off the ventilator. A team of therapists was assigned to help Curtis learn how to use his mouth, learn to eat and breathe without machinal support. Finally, after 275 days of care at the hospital, Curtis was discharged from the hospital and went home for the first time. 

Dr. Colm Travers, co-director of the Golden Week Program, was keen to know if Curtis was the youngest premature child to survive. As it turned out, he was, by a matter of just 24 hours. The previous record Guinness World record holder, Richard Hutchinson, was 21 weeks and two days old and was born just a month ago in Wisconsin on 5 June 2020. 

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