MIAMI – When she was born, she was 9½ inches long and weighed about 10 ounces. The doctors didn’t give her much of a chance.

But Amillia Taylor is a fighter.

This week, Amillia, now 17 weeks old and weighing 4 pounds, drank from a baby bottle for the first time.

And Tuesday, she’ll go home.

“She’s like a real baby now,” said Sonja Taylor, the baby’s mother. “Now I can feel her when I hold her.”

Amillia, say the doctors at Baptist Children’s Hospital in Kendall, Fla., is a record-setter: She is the first baby known to survive after a gestation period of fewer than 23 weeks.

“This is not the norm,” neonatologist Dr. William Smalling said. “Really, greatly, most of these babies don’t survive. … This is a miracle.”

In saying she is the most premature baby to survive, the doctors at Baptist cite the University of Iowa’s national registry, which compiles babies reported in the media and in medical journals.

The odds against Amillia were overwhelming. Sonja Taylor, 37, had to go through in-vitro fertilization to conceive. Throughout Taylor’s short pregnancy, she exhibited various risk factors. There were infections and cervical abnormalities. Her doctors attempted different techniques to forestall premature birth, but the baby had other ideas.

Sonja Taylor was due to give birth in March. But on Oct. 24, only 21 weeks and six days into her pregnancy, Taylor gave birth by C-section. The in-vitro fertilization made it possible to document the baby’s exact time in the womb.

A typical birth comes in weeks 37 to 40.

Even for a child born at 23 weeks and weighing about a pound, the survival rate is 30 percent. The American Association of Pediatrics does not consider a child born at 21 weeks and less than a pound to be viable.

When Amillia was born, she was barely breathing.

The staff at Baptist Hospital, who handle about 350 babies a year and know the statistics, didn’t see much promise.

Her parents did; they named her Amillia – which in Latin means resilient, fighter, hardworking.

Amillia has spent the first four months of her life in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

For the first six weeks, her mom was not allowed to hold her. “I just looked at her through the plastic,” she said.

Amillia’s tiny lungs were strained. Her skin was lacerated. She needed supplemental oxygen. There were heart problems, blood pressure issues and a mild brain hemorrhage.

“We tried not to be too hopeful,” Smalling said.

The baby needed 24-hour care, and just about every doctor and nurse at the hospital took turns monitoring her.

“Day by day it was a roller-coaster ride,” said Dr. Paul Fassbach, a neonatologist. “Yes, it was excellent care, but it was also luck.”

When Amillia goes home Tuesday, she will still have to take asthma medication as well as Vitamin E for her skin. In addition to bringing her in for follow-up care, her parents will have to monitor her every move, practice specific precautions when they bathe her and provide supplemental oxygen.

Soon, she’ll be joined by a sister.

The Taylors, who live in Homestead, Fla., are in the process of adopting a 16-year-old. Father Eddie, 46, is an electrical engineer. Sonja, 37, was a teacher at Richmond-Perrine Optimist Academy, an alternative school, but quit when Amillia was born.

With the proper care in the next few months, Amillia will be able to live a normal life.

“She’s still ahead of the curve,” Smalling said. “After all, she shouldn’t even have been born yet.”


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