Human Interest

Born at 21 weeks, this Wisconsin ‘miracle’ baby will spend Christmas at home

Beth and Rick Hutchinson of Somerset, Wisconsin, got an early Christmas miracle this year. Earlier this week, they brought their six-month-old son Richard home from the hospital. Richard was born at just 21 weeks and two days, after Beth went into early labor on June 5. He weighed in at just under one pound, lighter than a bag of baby carrots.

The Hutchinsons told their local ABC News affiliate that Richard’s prognosis for survival appeared utterly hopeless in the beginning. “When he was born, they gave him zero percent chance of survival,” said his father.

As expected, baby Richard’s first two months were the hardest. “The first month they weren’t even sure he was going to make it. It was really hard. You know in the back of your head [and] your mind that his odds weren’t great,” Beth said.

Richard initially required mechanical ventilation with a breathing machine and IV nutrition administered through a vein. His parents slowly began to see glimmers of hope as he made tiny, incremental improvements. Beth told KSTP Eyewitness News with a smile, “He very much has, each month, gotten stronger and shown, ‘yeah I’m going to make it, I’m going to do it.’ We learned through this whole process that Richard has his own agenda.”

Richard’s case proved quite a challenge for his medical team at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis, 45 minutes from his Wisconsin hometown. Dr. Stacy Kern, his physician, noted in an interview that Richard is the youngest patient she’s ever cared for.

Though he was born at just the “halfway point” of a typical pregnancy, Dr. Kern celebrated Richard’s strength. “It’s incredibly rare for a baby at 21 and two-sevenths weeks to be resuscitated, let alone survive,” Kern said. “I think Richard has surprised everyone at Children’s Minnesota. He’s taught us all how resilient tiny babies like him can be.”

READ: AMAZING: Youngest surviving preemie in the world, born at 21 weeks, is going home

She continued, “One of the biggest things as a neonatologist you worry about is lung development because their lungs are so immature at that point. We were nervous about, truly […] were we going to be able to ventilate him, essentially? So that was huge. Even though he was 21 and two-sevenths weeks, we could oxygenate him, we could ventilate him, and that just goes to show there is still so much unknown and that we have yet to learn. A lot of this was learning along the way. There’s not a lot of research out there for how to care for a 21-weeker.”

 

Now, the Hutchinsons are eager for Richard’s medical case to be studied by other clinicians so that other parents can have hope for their micro-preemie babies. Beth insisted, “If it will help other doctors help other babies, do it, because that’s another baby that can go home with their parents.”

The Hutchinsons have started a Facebook page with the goal of “[h]elping [other parents of extremely premature babies] get through their hard time with their little one.” Their experience with Richard has led the Hutchinsons to encourage other parents to explore all the options for their extremely premature babies.

“Richard is here because we wanted them to try, we wanted them to give him a chance,” said Beth. “He’s definitely given us the drive to keep pushing forward too because he’s shown us even small things can be amazing and bold and strong.”

At the time of his discharge, Richard required oxygen administered through a cannula into his nose, feeding through a tube while learning to bottle-feed, and nebulizer breathing treatments. Time will tell whether he requires physical, occupational, or speech therapies. For now, his parents are celebrating the present moment, soaking up each day with the son they were told wouldn’t make it home. Merry Christmas, Hutchinson family!

Author’s Note: A GoFundMe to help with Richard’s previous and ongoing medical expenses can be found here.

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