Baby born at 22 weeks, now thriving at 8 years old

Baby Born at 22 Weeks Weighing 1.3 lbs Is Now Thriving—He Was So Small He Could Wear Dad’s Wedding Ring as a Bracelet



A California baby born at 22 weeks is thriving despite being so small he could wear his dad’s wedding ring as a bracelet. He was the most premature baby the hospital had ever seen.

Ima Carnelus, 37, went into labor at 21 weeks due to a urinary tract infection (UTI). Doctors told Ms. Carnelus and her husband, Marcus Carnelus, 42, they had to pick between an emergency surgery or letting their baby pass away naturally. The couple wanted to “give him a chance” so tiny Jaxson was born via emergency cesarian section at 22 weeks.

He was given a twenty percent chance of survival. Born just 11 inches long and weighing 1 pound 2.9 ounces, Jaxson survived the birth. He was later rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit for surgery, where he fought for his life.

Against the odds, he went home after 119 days in hospital. Today, he’s a thriving 8-year-old. The proud mother has even written a book about their journey called “Saving My Son.”

Now, Jaxson has just started third grade—a milestone doctors warned he’d likely never reach—and his proud parents say the journey made the whole family stronger.

“It was touch and go at the beginning—I felt guilty, like my body had failed my son,” said Ms. Carnelus, an entrepreneur, from Torrance, California. “When he eventually came home, he was an amazing little baby. … nobody expected he’d make it past the first 24 hours, never mind eight years.

“A lot of times people think it was the worst thing to happen to us, but, honestly, it was the best. It made us look at life in a different perspective and appreciate the gift of life.”

Ms. Carnelus and her husband, who is a fashion business owner, were excited to learn they’d be having their first child, due to be born in November 2015. The pregnancy was smooth up until 21 weeks; on July 9 that year, Ms. Carnelus developed a UTI, which triggered pre-term labor as her body tried to fight the infection.

Doctors were confident they could delay labor for a bit longer to give the baby more time to develop. But she had another bout of illness five days later, and this time it triggered active labor.

After 10 hours of contractions, doctors warned the tot had just a twenty percent chance of survival and could be born severely disabled.

Ms. Carnelus said: “The doctors suggested we let him be born with no life-saving measures, and just let him pass away peacefully. They didn’t feel we should put him through what they thought would be a ‘hard life.’

“But we thought ‘What if a miracle could happen?’ and we’d love him however he came out. We knew we wanted to give him a chance.”

On July 18, 2015, at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center, tiny Jaxson was born; doctors swooped in as he wasn’t breathing. After a “touch and go” 24 hours in which the tot was resuscitated three times, medics wired him up to a ventilator to support his breathing.

“After a scary start, doctors couldn’t believe he was doing so well,” the mom said. “He was the smallest and youngest premature baby born at that hospital.”

Soon after his birth, doctors discovered a heart murmur that required his transfer to a second hospital, Miller’s Children’s Hospital, for an immediate operation. Fortunately, fighter Jaxson stabilized soon after. Then in late September 2015, after moving back to the hospital where he was born, Jaxson developed an eye disease called retinopathy of prematurity. He needed another operation to prevent blindness.

The family thought they were out of the woods, but following the surgery, as he was being re-intubated, Jaxson’s lungs collapsed. For three days the parents feared they’d lose their little boy. But on the third day, he started to come around again, and they could breathe a sigh of relief.

On November 14, 2015, his official due date, Jaxson could finally be discharged with an oxygen tube in his nose and weekly physical therapy sessions.

“He was an amazing little baby—you could tell he had a rough start, but once he got home, he was happy and thriving,” Ms. Carnelus said.

Now, Jaxson is physically active and healthy with no mobility issues, but he does have some sensory and speech issues due to autism. But, against the odds, he’s continued to grow and thrive.

Ms. Carnelus said Jaxson is “joyful, silly, and talkative” and loves music and swimming. Despite the difficulties the family has been through, they say it made them all closer and their relationship stronger.

“It still feels humbling to know we went through that, and we made it out OK,” she said. “Although there were hard moments, I can now find joy in the hard—our marriage became stronger and our family closer.

“I remember the hospital staff saying, ‘One day you’re going to look back and realize you’ve got through this’—and it’s true, I feel like we can do anything. Even now, I can always tell I’m raising someone who fought hard to be here—he’s so happy and joyful.

“We went through challenges, but we never lost our faith.”