Dubai: A baby born prematurely, weighing only 250gm, believed to be one of the tiniest on record to survive premature birth, has been discharged after a 177-day stay at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of a UAE hospital.
Baby Latifa was born on June 24, 2020, at the NMC Royal Hospital, Abu Dhabi. When the little baby came into the world after 23 weeks and one day of gestation, (in the second trimester of pregnancy) her weight was the same as a large apple!
Her parents, Emirati couple Fatema Omar and Ahmed Huseein Saleem, a businessman, who had lost their first child to a premature birth, were fearing the worst. Doctors had told them their baby had only a few hours to live. The baby was immediately transferred to the hospital’s NICU. However, the resilient little bundle of joy fought hard to live on and was discharged on December 17, 2020, weighing a healthy 3.825kg, fulfilling her parents’ prayers, confounding her care-givers and defying all scepticism.
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As per the Tiniest Babies Registry, maintained by the University of Iowa, United States, another little angel born weighing 245gm is thought to be the world’s smallest surviving premature baby. She was born in a hospital in San Diego in 2018 in the US. According to Centre for Disease Control data, more than half of all babies born at 23 weeks do not survive.
Baby Latifa was so small, she could “fit in the palm of the hands of her care team”, said Dr Ritu Nambiar, specialist gynaecologist at the hospital who helped deliver the baby via a spontaneous pre-term delivery.
A miracle baby
Describing the spirited battle launched by her care-givers to save Baby Latifa, Dr Nambiar said: “She is a miracle, there is no doubt about it. After the birth, the hospital’s advanced life-support team, led by consultant and head neonatologist Dr Wilson Lopez, worked to stabilise Latifa before she was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit.”
A team of experts then cared for the newborn, around-the-clock, eventually helping her grow stronger during her five-month stay in the NICU.
Why was baby Latifa’s case so unique?
At the time of birth, Baby Latifa, was only 29cm long with a birth weight of 250gm. The average length of a full-term born baby is about 50cm while the normal range is between 45.7cm-60cm and the average birth weight is 3.5kg although it can range between 2.5kg to 4.5kg. Moreover, she faced an array of medical challenges, far beyond what most babies do when they’re born that early.
“Unlike the world’s tiniest baby (born in the US in 2018), who survived as she did not have any major life-threatening complications, Latifa, although weighing just 5gm more, had an array of complications,” said Dr Lopez.
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Dr Lopez continued: “The baby had respiratory distress, sepsis, anaemia, hypotension, abnormal coagulation, hypernatremia, hyperglycaemia, hypoglycaemia, renal failure, patent ductus arteriosus, retinopathy of prematurity, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, gastroesophageal reflux, hearing issues and chronic lung disease amongst many others.”
Accordingly, a battery of doctors involving paediatric cardiologist, paediatric ophthalmologist, paediatric neurologist, paediatric hematologist, ENT and physiotherapy specialist at the hospital sprung into action.
The lucky parents
“It was the scariest day of my life,” said Fatema, Latifa’s mother recounting the day of her labour. “I just felt very uncomfortable and I feared maybe I had lost my second pregnancy, like my first,” she said.
The young mother was following up with her gynaecologist since the beginning of her pregnancy and everything seemed fine at the beginning until she started feeling complications and pain, and as she went to the emergency department, the premature labour occurred almost instantly at just 23 weeks of pregnancy.
Both the parents had to wait a long time to hold Latifa in their arms, as he stayed for over five weeks in the NICU, but they stayed strong. “The doctors allowed us to hold the baby for an hour after two months of her birth. We used to visit the hospital daily, sit for an hour or more, hold her and take care of her. My wife used to feed her milk as well during this time. Doctors also helped us learn Kangaroo Mother Care,” said father Salem beaming with joy.
Latifa’s doctors believed the presence of the parents all the time played a huge part in the baby’s recovery. They were an integral part of the care team.
A rare case
Michael Davis, the CEO of NMC Healthcare Ltd, said: “Baby Latifa most likely survived and thrived because she is a fighter and has a great family who stayed by her side, along with good genes and some good luck. Also, she happened to be born at the right place. A successful birth of 250gm is extremely rare. The baby had to deal with the usual catastrophic issues. But she was really a rarity, a very special baby and I am extremely pleased at the outcome and very grateful for our amazing staff at NMC Royal Hospital in Abu Dhabi.”
Baby Latifa continues to thrive at home, setting a glowing example of human spirit and resilience that is truly inspiring in the current times.