World's smallest baby brings hope to NICU parents

Sep 14, 2016 at 12:16 p.m. ET
Image: Photodisc/Getty

A premature birth is a harrowing experience for both babies and their parents, but a recent update on a baby dubbed the "world's smallest" is giving parents in the NICU a reason to hope for the best possible outcomes.

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Baby Emilia Grabarczyk was born in a German hospital at just 26 weeks gestation after doctors determined her placenta wasn't providing her with enough nutrition. Due to fears that she might die in the womb, they performed a C-section and she arrived weighing an astonishing 8 ounces. She was so small, doctors say she could only be fed via a tiny tube, and they had to use a cotton swab soaked in sugar water to ease her pain.

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The odds for Emilia's survival were not in her favor, but nine months later, both doctors and her parents say the "little fighter" is thriving. She now weighs 106 ounces, or about 6.5 pounds. She's alert and showing no signs of serious disability, and she even endured a tricky abdominal surgery during her 12th week outside the womb. Her story is rare, but it's providing a ray of light for other parents with babies in the NICU.

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According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 million babies — a little more than 1 in 10 — are born prematurely each year. These babies face many challenges, including an increased risk of learning disabilities, visual and hearing problems and immediate medical concerns. But modern interventions are saving lives and changing outcomes for these babies every single day, and little Emilia's story is a prime example of just how far we've come.

Decades ago, we simply didn't have the resources to help babies like Emilia. Even now, doctors say it's unlikely that a baby smaller than 14 ounces will survive. But Emilia's amazing fight is proof that even the smallest babies can thrive, and it's so important to continue working toward medical advancements and new technologies that can improve outcomes for pre-term births.

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Every birth, pregnancy and baby is totally unique, and there's no guarantee that any two outcomes or experiences will be exactly the same. But Emilia's story is proof that amazing things can happen, even when the odds are stacked against you. She's an example to other NICU parents that there's always a reason to keep fighting and to hold out hope. Hopefully, her miraculous journey inspires even more focus on helping pre-term babies and their families, so a happy, healthy outcome can finally be the norm.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

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Image: Getty Images

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