The pre-term baby spent 133 days in the hospital before going home. During his time there, neonatal specialists helped him get healthier.
There are many babies across the world who fight hard to stay alive, especially when they are born early. One of those babies, who was born at only 22 weeks, became the youngest gestational-age baby to graduate from the Tulane Lakeside Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Louisiana. His parents went through an emotional roller coaster before experiencing the joy of bringing their baby home.
Russell William Appold Jr. was born at 22 weeks, which was more than four months before his scheduled due date. Russell Jr. was born weighing only one pound and spent 133 days in the hospital. During his 19 weeks in the NICU, he was helped by neonatal specialists to become healthier and stronger. It took time and eventually, his breathing got better, he gained weight and was able to have a stable body temperature on his own, according to WebMD.
"Russell William Appold Jr. is a miracle baby and a fighter," the hospital shared in a news release. "He was so small he could fit in my hand," his father said. "But now he's a chunky baby."
Born at 22 weeks in May 2020, the baby's lungs matured slowly and his breathing improved. His parents, Natasha Williams and Russell Appold Sr., often spent time by their baby's side in the NICU, helped take care of him, held him, and gave skin-to-skin contact, as per Tulane News. His parents gave him "the kind of love only a mother and father can give," a release from the hospital said, wrote WWLTV.
"The first two weeks were the hardest weeks of my life. They were telling me my baby was going to die. It was an emotional rollercoaster," Natasha told L'Observateur in January 2021.
Russell Jr.'s mother has been capturing his journey on social media on the Facebook page called Baby Russell's Journey. Natasha wants her baby to know about his fight to survive and about the people who helped on their journey. "As he grows, we will tell him stories of the dedicated nurses and doctors and staff members at Tulane Lakeside Hospital who helped a 22-week-old baby get to the point of coming home," she said, writes WWLTV.
The family of three left the hospital in October 2020 when the baby received a king's farewell. He got his own parade through the hospital. His car seat was tucked into a decorated wagon. His mother wore a crown and his father held a jeweled scepter during the parade.
“He proved to be a fighter who beat the odds and went home this week in a grand send off,” Tulane Lakeside said on Facebook, according to WebMD. The little boy weighed seven pounds when he was discharged from the hospital.
Natasha told L'Observateur that while her son is "technically" eight months old, "but right now, he’s like a four-month-old. Developmentally, he is right where he is supposed to be," she said. "It’s a miracle because there are babies born at 30 weeks that still have to come home with a feeding tube. He’s home with just a little bit of oxygen."
The proud parents were interviewed by multiple media outlets but they are most grateful that their son is happy, healthy and home. One of the healthcare workers, occupational therapist Diane Robichaux, who worked with Russell Jr. said, "He’s doing very well." She added, "With an adjusted age of about four months, he’s starting to roll independently. He’s tolerating longer periods of tummy time. He’s eating well and developing socially with lots of eye contact and smiles, which is all very good for a baby born at only 22 weeks gestation."
After 133 days in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, Russell and his mother went home. No baby born that prematurely at Tulane Lakeside had ever survived, the hospital said. https://t.co/ioI4ZgIEO2— NOLA.com (@NOLAnews) October 3, 2020
Almost 15 million babies are born preterm, which is before 37 weeks of pregnancy, annually, the World Health Organization estimates. In 2018, one in 10 babies in the US were born preterm. These babies, when born too early, have a higher rate of death and disability, according to the CDC. Survival rates of babies born preterm have improved in the last decade but a study published in JAMA Network 2018 found that only around 38% of babies born at 22 weeks survived and were discharged to home.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Jill Lehmann Photography (Representational Image)