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Extreme Preemies Grow Up: Against the Odds

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STANFORD, Calif. (WGEM) -- 380,000 babies are born premature each year.

The smallest baby ever born came into the world at 23 weeks and three days and weighed the same as a small apple.

She is part of a group of survivors called micro preemies.

Surviving birth and the weeks after is challenging.

Now, new research that may help these preemies live long and healthy lives.

Little Haven was born 100 days early — weighing just 410 grams.

“It’s about the size of a coke can,” illustrated Haven’s mother, Amanda Smith.

Babies born so early are monitored for organ damage, brain damage, and developmental delays. And researchers are now learning that what happened at birth could cause problems later on. Irika and her twin brother Irith were born three months early and weighed just one pound 14 ounces.

“Well, I’m 30 seconds older than he is, which I always remind him of,” Irika Katiyar shared.

Five days after birth, both babies needed heart surgery, battled infections, and suffered setbacks.

“They were just so tiny, and Irith was born sick,” recalled Irika and Irith’s Mother, Barkha Katiyar.

“We stayed in the hospital for about three and a half months,” Irika shared.

“I didn't know if we stood a chance, if the kids would survive or not,” Barkha expressed.

Now 19 years later, Irika and Irith are happy and healthy—but they are still reminded daily of their first few months of life.

“I only have one vocal cord and the other one's paralyzed,” Irika described.

New research shows micro preemies have an increased risk for psychiatric disorders later in life, breathing problems, and heart disease.

Young adults who were born at 28 weeks or less are at nearly three times the risk of having high blood pressure.

All problems that can’t be seen when the babies are born. But researchers are hoping to avoid the NICU altogether by developing a blood test to determine risk.

“What the blood test currently does is it tells you: yes, a woman will deliver preterm within two months of when she took the blood test. And what we hope is that it will get paired with a treatment and then you can prevent the preterm birth from happening,” explained Mira Moufarrej, a bioengineering graduate student at Stanford University.

Treatments that could delay birth and change a child’s life forever.

These extreme preemie babies are part of a group called against-the-odds babies which, by the way, due to the popularity of IVF is now larger than at any time in history.

Because of that, researchers are just now beginning to understand what survivors of extreme prematurity may face as they age.

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Don Dwyer

Don Dwyer is a Morning Anchor/Reporter at WGEM.

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