A resilient baby who was born at 21 weeks has defied a zero percent chance to live. Beating the unimaginable odds, the now-7-month-old is one of the youngest babies in the world to survive.
Elizabeth and her husband, Rick Hutchinson, who hail from Somerset in Wisconsin, were elated to find out that they were pregnant in February 2020 after the couple had struggled to conceive.
However in June, as the expectant mom experienced some discomfort, doctors found that Elizabeth was already 3 centimeters dilated. On June 5, 2020, at 21 weeks and 2 days, baby Richard was born weighing less than a pound (approx. 454 g).
“When I first saw Richard I was very nervous and scared,” Rick told The Epoch Times via email. “I was not sure if he was going to make it, yet I was amazed how small and fragile he was.”
With no access to neonatal programs near the Hutchinsons’ family house, Richard was transferred to The Mother Baby Center, a partnership between Children’s Minnesota and Allina Health, to a Level IV neonatal program.
However, doctors at the Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis weren’t sure if Richard, who could fit into the size of a palm, would make it.
Despite the odds, Rick and his wife, who are pro-life believers, wanted to give their newborn a fighting chance.
“[We] feel that every child deserves a chance, even though people were telling us he was too young to make it,” Rick said. “God was watching over [Richard].”
However, what unfolded after Richard’s birth put the parents on an “emotional rollercoaster.”
At birth, instead of developed lungs, Richard had tiny air sacs. In order to sustain himself, the little boy needed IV fluid, a breathing tube, as well as blood pressure support as oxygen had stopped flowing to his head, Good Morning America reported.
For neonatologist Dr. Stacy Kern, Richard was one of the youngest babies she cared for. “We know many NICUs around the world are not even resuscitating babies born at 22 weeks,” she said.
In the next few daunting weeks, Richard’s tiny body was attached to two ventilators so that he could keep breathing, but despite that, the little boy’s oxygen level began to decline.
Worrying for what would unfold next, Kern brought Elizabeth to Richard so that she could bid farewell to her baby. Unbeknownst to Kern and Elizabeth, as soon as the mom touched her son, things changed for the better.
“She puts her hand on him and all the sudden his oxygen saturation goes up to the 80s then 90s, and I look at her and go, ‘I guess he just needed his mom,’” Kern said. “It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. He just continued to surprise us day after day.”
Throughout the ordeals that ensued, the new parents didn’t give up and showed up every day by driving for an hour to be by their little son’s side. “We made sure we were there to give him support,” Rick said. “I think that helped him get through this because he knew he could count on us.”
As the brave boy began to make progress with each passing day, doctors removed his breathing tube on the 65th day and put on positive airway pressure for 45 days, then high-flow oxygen.
However, Kern told KTSP that there is not a lot of research being done to show how to care for a baby that is only 21 weeks, but Richard’s medical team learned a lot through the act of caring for him.
On Dec. 4, a healthy 6-month-old Richard went home with his parents just in time for the holiday season. “I think Richard has surprised everyone at Children’s Minnesota. He’s taught us all how resilient tiny babies like him can be,” Kern said.
Richard still needs a lot of care. His parents had to learn CPR and attend other classes in case of an emergency, whilst the little boy still relies on a feeding tube.
Regardless, his parents couldn’t be happier to have the precious boy home.
“We are very excited and happy to have him home,” Rick told The Epoch Times via email. “He still has his struggles however he is strong and overcomes any obstacles that has come in his way!”
Rick also reflected on some amazing moments along the way despite all the challenges. “The best moments are when I look at my son and see his smiling face. Or when he tries to talk back to me when I am talking to him,” Rick recalled.
However, the “absolute” best moment the father admits is “when I look at him and my wife sleeping I know this is what I always wanted.”
As Richard grows to surprise his parents, it still remains unclear what long-term health limitations he might suffer from. The Hutchinson family chronicles their baby’s journey on a Facebook group and has also set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for his medical expenses.
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