VANCOUVER, Washington, May 21, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The smallest surviving baby ever born at a Vancouver, Washington hospital is on her way home after spending her first five months struggling for life in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, reports The Columbian.
When Harley Daylee Gulliksen was born on Dec. 20 by emergency Caesarean section at 27 weeks gestation, she weighed just 15 ounces and was only 10 inches in length.
At 27 weeks, a baby usually weighs about 2 pounds, 8 ounces, said Dr. Bret Freitag, medical director of Legacy Salmon Creek's neonatal intensive care unit. He said Harley's size was closer to a baby of 22 or 23 weeks.
At birth Harley's arms were smaller that an adult's little finger, and her feet were each about the size of a quarter.
During her 149 days in the hospital, the little girl spent 33 days on a ventilator while she fought an infection and a collapsed lung, and had a feeding tube in her belly button for 47 days while she was still too small to nurse. Yet she not only defied the odds by surviving, but set new records at the Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center because of her will to live.
Dr. Freitag said Harley's was the longest stay in the hospital's NICU, she spent the most time on the ventilator of any baby cared for at Salmon Creek, and is the smallest baby ever delivered at Legacy to survive, thrive, and be sent home.
Before Harley, the smallest surviving baby born at Legacy was a boy who weighed 1 pound, 7 ounces.
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Harley was given the okay to go home on Friday, May 17. Now, at nearly 5 months old, she weighs 7 pounds, 6 ounces, and measures 171/2 inches.
Tiffany Burril, Harley's mom, said that once her daughter was able to nurse she felt more confident that her baby would survive.
“It's been difficult,” Burril told The Columbian. “But it's been fun too, watching her get bigger and stronger and prove all the doctors wrong.”
“It's crazy seeing how much she's grown compared to what she was,” Harley's dad, Mitchall Gulliksen, said. “She's just gotten bigger and bigger.”
Dr. Freitag said that Harley's small size is due to a condition called skeletal dysplasia, possibly compounded by her mother's previously undiagnosed medical condition that resulted in a very difficult pregnancy.
“Her arms and legs and, really, her whole body are shorter than normal proportions,” he said. “She will always be smaller than other children her age.”
Though the little girl still has obstacles to overcome – she will need supplemental oxygen and medication to help her lungs for the next six to 12 months, and doctors have yet to determine if any developmental difficulties will arise as she grows older – Dr. Freitag said he believes that she will do well because she shows all the normal reactions, such as eye contact, smiles, and being able to firmly grip a finger, that a child about her age should make.
“She's got a lot of spirit, a lot of fight in her,” said Harley's dad. “Trying to get through everything, she's a strong little girl.”