21-Week Preemie Who Defied the Odds Celebrated His First Birthday

21-Week Preemie Who Defied the Odds Celebrated His First Birthday

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The world’s earliest preemie baby recently celebrated his first birthday after being given a 0% chance of survival.

Richard Scott William Hutchinson made his grand entrance into the world on June 5, 2020. With a due date of October 13, he’d been born four months earlier than anticipated.

Richard’s mom experienced medical complications and went into labor unexpectedly. Doctors delivered him and did everything in their power to sustain his life. At just 21 weeks two days old, Richard was 131 days premature. To put that in perspective, most babies are born at around 40 weeks old.

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Richard had the odds stacked against him from the start, weighing just 340 g (11.9 oz) at birth. That’s about the weight of a can of soup and measures just one-tenth of an average newborn’s weight. When his parents held their son, he fit into the palm of their hands. Because of his highly premature birth, doctors didn’t feel optimistic about his odds of survival.

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They transferred Richard to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Minnesota hospital in Minneapolis. There, doctors gave his parents the news they’d been dreading. Dr. Stacy Kern, part of Richard’s neonatology team, told them he had no chance of survival during prenatal counseling.

They wanted to prepare them for the worst, but Dr. Kern felt a glimmer of hope on the horizon. She knew Richard would struggle the first few weeks of his life. But, if he could get through that, she felt he’d survive.

Thankfully, her intuition was correct, and the preemie “miracle baby” celebrated his first birthday on June 5, 2021. A first birthday marks a huge milestone for any child, but it’s even more special for Richard. Guinness World Records officially declared him the most premature baby on record to survive.

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The tiny preemie inspired everyone with his determination to survive against all odds.

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It seems that Richard gets his fighting spirit from his parents, Beth and Rick Hutchinson. Dr. Kern believes they played a massive role in their son’s success story.

“I credit his miraculous survival to his wonderful parents who were there for him every step of the way and to the entire neonatology team at Children’s Minnesota. It takes a village to care for and support these babies until the time they are ready to go home,” Kern told Guinness World Records.

She added that Beth and Rick fought for Richard the whole time and never stopped advocating for him. Their strength and positive attitude throughout a terrifying, difficult time greatly inspired her and the entire neonatal team.

The first few months were the hardest to get through. Doctors weren’t even sure Richard would make it, even though they remained hopeful. To add even more stress to the situation, Richard’s birth happened during a global pandemic. Hospitals had many restrictions in place, limiting visitation hours even for parents.

They couldn’t stay at the hospital overnight with him or share visiting duties with other family members. So, Rick and Beth commuted daily from their home in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, to Minneapolis to see their preemie son.

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“We made sure we were there to give him support,” Rick told Guinness World Records. “I think that helped him get through this because he knew he could count on us.”

Despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic, Richard’s parents always found a way to visit him. They asked doctors for updates constantly so they could remain informed about his condition. Over six months, Richard continuously improved, gaining both weight and strength. In early December 2020, doctors finally released him from the hospital after a long road to recovery.

A miracle unfolded

That day, emotions ran high for both the family and the neonatal team who cared for Richard.

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Dr. Kern said: “The day Richard was discharged from the NICU was such a special day. I remember picking him up out of his crib and just holding him with tears in my eyes.

“I couldn’t believe this was the same little boy that once was so sick that I feared he might not survive. The same little boy that once fit in the palm of my hand, with skin so translucent that I could see every rib and vessel in his tiny body. I couldn’t help but squeeze him and tell him how proud I was of him.

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