Baby girl born at 22 weeks amazes Dubai doctors by thriving
DUBAI // A newborn thought to be the most premature baby to yet survive in the UAE is thriving, doctors said, after she entered the world more than four months before she was due.
Aviva Coutinho was born at 22 weeks and weighed 450 grams at birth – less than half the weight of a bag of sugar.
The medical team at Dubai’s Latifa Hospital feared for her survival, but the baby is at home with her parents, brother and sister and is flourishing.
Her Indian parents thanked the medical team for the care they provided for their daughter, which they say ensured her survival, although Aviva’s twin was stillborn.
“We stayed in Latifa Hospital for almost five months,” said her mother, R C, of Dubai. “It was a long, emotional and very challenging time and yet here I am with my miracle baby in my arms.
“We are eternally thankful to the intensive care team at the hospital.
“Not only did they provide us with exceptional care, but also they prayed for Aviva every single day.
“They shared my pain, happiness and love for my little daughter.”
Dr Arif Faquih, the hospital’s neonatologist and acting head of the neonatology department, described Aviva as a “medical miracle”.
“To the best of our knowledge, we are not aware of any baby who was born at 22 weeks and survived,” he said. “I would call her a miracle baby because while she has gone through some issues relating to prematurity, medically not only has she survived but, until now, she has not had any neurodevelopment problems at all.”
Most specialists considered survival prospects for babies who weighed less than 500 grams at birth to be bleak, but Aviva not only pulled through, she escaped the neurological damage common in very premature babies.
Dr Mahmoud El Halik, a consultant neonatologist and head of the hospital’s paediatric department, said a study released in the New England Journal of Medicine this month showed that survival without moderate or severe impairment is 2 per cent among children born at 22 weeks of gestation.
Aviva has survived an early birth and has not suffered damage to her brain, eyes or lungs. Dr Muna Tahlak, the chief executive of Latifa Hospital, said: “We knew that one of the babies was stillborn and therefore we needed high-level monitoring to ensure the other twin [Aviva] survived and the mother was safe,” she said.
“Moreover, there were several complications along the way that the medical team had to overcome.”
After her birth in May last year, Aviva was in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit until September.
Dr Faquih said Aviva was now “very healthy” despite being born with very poorly developed lungs, gut, brain and skin and fragile bones.
Dr Faquih said the round-the-clock devotion the parents paid to their newborn played a crucial part in her survival.
“They spent hours together from the first moments of life – 18 to 20 hours a day,” he said. “This resulted in providing nothing but breast milk for the baby – no formula at all – which was very, very important.”
Dr Faquih said that “kangaroo mother care” – skin-to-skin contact – played a part.
“It was an absolute challenge to provide kangaroo care for such a tiny baby,” he said. “But because we believe in the importance of skin-to-skin care and its impact in helping babies to thrive, we managed to provide such care.”
Updated: March 23, 2016 04:00 AM