The first 23-week preemie to survive in more than a decade
Courtesy Jennifer Fresneda
A few years ago, we wrote about the miraculous survival of a baby born at 26 weeks. Now we have Samuel Rodriguez, born in April 2017 at just 23 weeks and 3 days, the result of a spontaneous placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterus). All Samuel’s mom, Jennifer Fresneda of Tioga, Texas, remembers is waking up to labor pains and rushing to the hospital, where she learned that her baby’s sole chance of survival was an emergency C-section. Sam actually took a breath upon emerging, but doctors immediately intubated and rushed him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). When Jennifer and her husband were finally allowed to see their baby, Jennifer nearly collapsed from the shock. “He was the tiniest thing, hooked up to all these wires. I was frightened and powerless.”
Samuel spent four months in NICU, during which he had two surgeries, including surgery to correct a heart abnormality. On August 9, the day before his actual due date, Samuel was discharged from the hospital, a healthy baby boy, albeit with an apnea monitor and supplemental oxygen. “I didn’t even know babies so small could survive,” Jennifer marvels. Check out these 8 unsolved mysteries that still stump doctors.
The boy who survived leukemia three times in ten years
Courtesy The St. Baldricks Foundation
Zach Swart was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2007 at age 6. Although ALL is generally highly treatable, Zach’s version played hardball. Zach’s first treatment consisted of more than three years of chemo. Two years later, the cancer returned. After another two years of treatment, Zach was deemed cancer-free. Then, when Zach was 15, the cancer came back. This time, chemo was just the pregame—to put Zach into remission in preparation for a bone marrow transplant (BMT). But three months later, after nearly dying from the side effects, Zach still wasn’t in remission. It seemed as if he was out of options when along came the miracle.
Kevin Curran, MD, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, introduced Zach and his family to “CAR-T cell treatment,” which Dr. Curran developed through a research grant from St. Baldrick’s Foundation. It put Zach into complete remission in a matter of weeks. Within a month he received his BMT (from his brother, Ben). He’s getting stronger by the day. Read about the 10 parenting lessons we can all learn from children with cancer.
“I was initially afraid about CAR-T’s side effects,” Zach told Reader’s Digest. “But then I didn’t have any at all. I was so lucky, and it feels so good not to be sick anymore and to be home and see my friends. I’m determined to leave cancer far behind me.”
“Every day I see Zach smile, laugh, and just be a kid, it is truly a miracle,” his mom says. Find out 12 loving ways to support cancer patients.
Two parents’ lifesaving touch
Courtesy Kate Ogg
On March 25, 2010, Kate and David Ogg heard the words every parent dreads: Their newborn wasn’t going to make it. Their twins—a girl and a boy—were born two minutes apart and 14 weeks premature, weighing just over two pounds each. Doctors had tried to save the boy for 20 minutes but saw no improvement. His heartbeat was nearly gone, and he’d stopped breathing. The baby had just moments to live. “I saw him gasp, but the doctor said it was no use,” Kate told the Daily Mail five years later. “I know it sounds stupid, but if he was still gasping, that was a sign of life. I wasn’t going to give up easily.”
Still, the Sydney, Australia, couple knew this was likely goodbye. In an effort to cherish her last minutes with the tiny boy, Kate asked to hold him. “I wanted to meet him, and for him to know us,” Kate told the Today show. “We’d resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to lose him, and we were just trying to make the most of those last, precious moments.”
Kate unwrapped the boy, whom the couple had already named Jamie, from his hospital blanket and ordered David to take his shirt off and join them in bed. The first-time parents wanted their son to be as warm as possible and hoped that the skin-to-skin contact would improve his condition. They also talked to him.
“We were trying to entice him to stay,” Kate told the Daily Mail. “We explained his name and that he had a twin that he had to look out for and how hard we had tried to have him.” Then something miraculous happened. Jamie gasped again—and then he started breathing. Finally, he reached for his father’s finger. The couple’s lost boy had made it. “We’re the luckiest people in the world,” David told Today.
Eight years later, Jamie and his sister, Emily, are happy and healthy. The Oggs only recently told the kids the story of their birth. “Emily burst into tears,” Kate said. “She was really upset, and she kept hugging Jamie. This whole experience makes you cherish them more.” Read about these 9 nurses who went above and beyond the call of duty.