World’s smallest surviving preemie leaves San Diego hospital weighing a healthy 5 pounds

By Dave Andrusko

The staff knew this preemie was going to be very small. But last December, as Paul Wozniak, a neonatologist at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns in San Diego, stood in the delivery room looking down at the infant the staff would later nickname Saybie , he told Allyson Chiu.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe how small she is,’ ” Wozniak told The Washington Post. The doctors had anticipated the baby would be around 400 grams, or slightly less than 1 pound, but she was even tinier. “We weren’t expecting anyone this small,” he said

Small as in the size of a large apple, a child’s juice box, as in 8.6 ounces (245 grams), “which means she is now believed to be the world’s smallest surviving infant,” Chiu wrote. “According to the Tiniest Babies Registry, a database maintained by the University of Iowa, Saybie weighed seven grams less than the title’s previous holder, a baby girl born in Germany in 2015.”

Chui reports that the family wants to remain anonymous but allowed the baby’s story to be shared. After nearly five months in the neonatal intensive care unit, Saybie, born at 23 weeks and three days, left the hospital Wednesday, weighing a robust 5 pounds.

Saybie left remarkably healthy, but it was really touch and go last December. “It was the scariest day of my life,” said Saybie’s mother in a video released by Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns in San Diego. “I just felt very uncomfortable, and I thought, ‘Maybe this was part of the pregnancy.’ “

Turns out Saybie’s mom was suffering from preeclampsia, a very serious condition that can slow a baby’s growth in the womb and threaten the lives of both mother and baby.

The situation was very grim. NPR’s Bobby Allyn reported

At first, doctors were not confident Saybie would defy the odds, telling the baby’s parents to start preparing for the worst: Saybie’s father was told he would have about an hour with her before she would die.

“But, that hour turned into two hours, which turned into a day, which turned into a week,” said Saybie’s mother, whom the hospital has not named because she requested that she stay anonymous. It was distressing in the moment, the mother said, but she is now overjoyed looking back at what she now calls a “beautiful” experience.

A pink sign by her crib read “Tiny but Mighty.” When she left the unit, nurses placed a miniature graduation cap on her.

But that’s all after the fact. Dana Chortkoff, the OB/GYN who delivered Saybie , spoke at a Wednesday news conference and

said the mother had “severely elevated blood pressure” and that if the baby’s life were to be saved, she needed to come out.

“I kept telling them she’s not going to survive, she’s only 23 weeks,” the mother said in the video. A typical pregnancy is 40 weeks.

Once a breathing tube was inserted, Saybie warmed up, dried off and given medicine to help her breathe, “Then, all they could do was wait,” Chiu reported.

“We just sat by her bedside the first six hours,” Wozniak said. “I thought her chances of making it probably weren’t good. I told the folks every hour I would update them, but there’s a good chance she’s going to die.”

But Saybie did make it! She gradually gained weight and avoided all the major medical challenges “micro-preemies” can face.

“She’s a miracle, that’s for sure,” Kim Norby, one of the NICU nurses who cared for Saybie, said in the hospital’s video.

And when she left Wednesday

Saybie was given a tiny graduation cap before she left the neonatal intensive care unit at the Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns in San Diego.

“She is the smallest baby,” the mother said. “But she’s mine.”