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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 01:05 GMT 02:05 UK
'I feel blessed'
By Caroline Ryan
BBC News Online health staff

Jessyka Frazier
Jessyka Frazier was smaller than a human hand when she was born
Jessyka Frazier weighed just under 11 ounces when she was born 14 weeks early and could easily fit into the palm of an adult's hand - her parents were warned she may not live.

Jessyka, is one of the smallest ever babies to survive, along with Aaliyah Hart who was born in the UK this month weighing just 12 ounces.

Now almost 18 months old, Jessyka is small, but thriving. Her mother Christine, from San Antonio, Texas, US, tells BBC News Online how her daughter has grown into a healthy toddler..


"I was 18 weeks pregnant when I started having problems.

"I was told my baby wasn't growing and wasn't getting enough fluids.

"The doctors gave me heparin injections [which thin the blood] to try and increase the blood flow to Jessyka.

"They were trying to take the pregnancy to a viable stage."

Jessyka aged two months with her father
The doctors weren't sure they were going to be able to help her
Two years earlier, Christine's son Christofer had died six days after being born at 27 weeks.

Her son Dylan, now four, was also born premature at 35 weeks.

She and her husband Ricky were determined this baby would survive.

After the heparin treatment, doctors and Christine watched and waited.

"Nothing really changed, She really didn't grow very much, I think she put on another three ounces in the next eight weeks.

Caesarean

"At 26 weeks, doctors decided it was time to give her the chance of life on the outside, since she wasn't getting the nutrients she needed on the inside.

"I was very nervous about giving birth to her at that stage. But I tried very hard to hope for the best.

"When she was born, she was very small, but she was trying to breath on her own and she was kicking and fighting."

Jessyka was moved to the special care baby unit straight after the Caesarean operation.

The nurses and the doctors had never taken care of a baby that small before - and that was a challenge
Kathleen Wessels, St Luke's Hospital, San Antonio
"The doctors weren't sure they were going to be able to help her.

"They had to try three times to get the breathing tube into her, and they almost gave up.

"I was asked if I wanted her to be resuscitated if she stopped breathing.

"I said yes - I wanted to try and give her every chance to live after losing my other baby."

'Fine'

Jessyka remained in hospital for just over six months.

Like most premature babies, Jessyka had respiratory problems. She also had to fight two serious infections in her first month of life.

She had to remain on a ventilator for four and a half months, and suffered from liver problems.

Jessyka this month with a doll made to her exact size at birth
Jessyka this month with a doll made to her exact size at birth
Christine says Jessyka is now thriving.

"She still needs oxygen, but only at night - and she should come off that in August.

"But other than that, she's perfectly fine, but very small.

"She weighs about 13lbs now. I think most babies her age weigh at least 20lbs."

Christine says Jessyka is around seven months behind in her development, but is catching up.

She said: "I feel blessed, totally blessed.

"Jessyka is now crawling and pulling to stand.

"She says DaDa, MaMa, BaBa and NaNa for night-night.

"She has four teeth right now, but all very yellow due to high bilirubin levels and antibiotics during her stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. They say that her permanent teeth shouldn't be affected but can't guarantee anything."

"She still doesn't eat solid foods very well because she has an oral aversion from being intubated for so long. But that is getting better, she eats one jar a day."

'I got attached'

Kathleen Wessels is a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit where Jessyka was cared for at St Luke's Hospital in San Antonio.

"The nurses and the doctors had never taken care of a baby that small before - and that was a challenge.

"When we first got her, we had a lot of problems with the equipment because she was so small. We ran into problems with things like tubes which were never small enough."

Ms Wessels, who became so close to Jessyka and her family that she is now an adopted aunt, said she had initially been scared to care for her because she was so small.

"But one day I had to care for her, then I just got attached. I wouldn't let anyone else care for her.

"Jessyka is really quite amazing."


SEE ALSO:
UK's tiniest baby unveiled
20 Jun 03  |  Health
'My babies came 15 weeks early'
24 Mar 03  |  Health


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