Possibly the youngest surviving preemie doing well at 4 years old

By Dave Andrusko

Lyla was 3 weeks old in this picture. “When she was born her eyes were still fused shut. This photo was from the day her eyes opened,” her mom Courtney Stensrud said. Her wedding ring is on the baby’s right arm.
Courtesy of Courtney Stensrud

As any reader of NRL News Today already know, we are mesmerized by stories of very premature babies beating the odds. For one thing, it emphasizes the common humanity these little ones share with us. For another, it reminds us of the inherent schizophrenia of abortion where a baby down the hall who is the same age as a baby being torn to pieces is desperately being worked on by surgeons who will do anything to save her.

Courtney Stensrud was featured on NBC’s Today in 2017 when she first went public with the story of Lyla and over this last Thanksgiving Eve, NBC News “caught up” with the family. Courtney and her husband (her high school sweetheart) are the parents of a baby born in 2014 at 21 weeks who may be the most premature surviving baby.

The latest story, as you would expect, including a lengthy blow by blow, almost minute by minute account of Lyla’s harrowing but ultimately successful birth. The hero (besides mother and daughter) is Dr. Kaashif Ahmad.

A. Pawlowski writes

Stensrud, now 36, and Ahmad first met in the delivery room of a San Antonio hospital minutes after Stensrud gave birth. The 14.5-ounce baby — who was lying on her stomach still attached by the umbilical cord — was due in November, but it was only July. “It was shocking to see a living, breathing person that small,” she recalled.

After experiencing a premature rupture of membranes and chorioamnionitis (an infection of the placenta and the amniotic fluid) Stensrud went into an early labor. Dr. Ahmad frankly told her of all the dire possibilities and why her baby would not live—lungs are not developed enough, the blood vessels in her brain are so fragile, for starters—and the possibility of disabilities such as cerebral palsy if she did survive.

Pawlowski said she knew it wasn’t possible for a baby to survive born that early.

“But when I was holding a live baby in my arms, I just absolutely thought she could survive. I felt it in my heart,” Stensrud told Pawlowki.

“As he was basically telling me there was nothing they could do, I said, ‘Will you try?'” Stensrud said.

“My answer was, ‘If you would like us to try then I’m absolutely happy to try’… knowing that there were no guarantees,” Ahmad recalled.

After doctors clamped the baby’s umbilical cord, he placed her under an overhead warmer to raise her body temperature and placed a breathing tube into her airway.

“From that point, she gradually responded. She turned pink. Within a few minutes, she began to make efforts to breathe and then she began to move,” he recalled.

“They work miracles,” Stensrud said.

Lyla was whisked to the neonatal intensive care unit and spent about four months in the hospital. She finally came home three days before her original due date in November 2014.

Today, she’s “she’s happy, full of energy and full of life” and keeps right up with her 5-year-old brother, Stensrud said.

Dr. Ahmad was very cautious about drawing any generalizations about babies born that early, even though, for example, doctors have no reason to believe Lyla will have cerebral palsy.

Stensrud sees things differently:

Still, Stensrud said she feels hopeful other babies in a similar situation will be given a chance at life, like her daughter was. And she wants other parents to know survival is possible. Telling Lyla’s story and giving hope to other families has become Stensrud’s passion.

“The reason I’m doing these interviews — it’s not for me, it’s not for my daughter. It’s for that mother in antepartum who is frantically searching online — that she will have a little bit of hope and faith that she can have the same outcome,” she said.

You can read her blog at hopefaithandrockstars.com.