A premature twin born with an incomplete esophagus is the smallest ever to survive with the condition.
Harper Jacobo and her sister Gabriella weighed in at just 1lb (0.45kg) when they were born.
The twins, who were delivered at just 23 weeks into the pregnancy in Alliance, Nebraska in February 2021, were rushed 250 miles to a specialist Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Colorado, but doctors discovered that little Harper had a dangerous condition.
The tube between her mouth and stomach had failed to connect while she was in the womb, meaning they needed to operate on the tiny baby.
Doctors carried out surgery before using magnets to bring the two parts of the esophagus together – thankfully the procedure was successful.
The condition is called esophageal atresia, and it is where the upper and lower part of the esophagus fail to connect. It is relatively rare and only happens to around one in 4,100 babies born in the US, and most babies do survive.
Scientists have suggested the condition may be caused by genetic abnormalities, and many of the babies also have problems with their digestive system, heart and kidneys.
Dr Steven Rothenberg, chief of pediatric surgery at the hospital, said Harper was the ‘smallest baby ever to be born with this [condition] to survive’.
Doctors explained that 23 weeks is around the earliest age babies have been known to survive outside the womb, so they were incredibly lucky. But they both needed special care after they were born.
After transferring Harper to the specialist hospital, doctors had to wait another four months before carrying out surgery.
She spent the first year of her life receiving treatment in hospital before finally being allowed to go home and live with her family.
Gabriella was already at home with her parents because she was discharged earlier than her twin sister.
Parents Kayla Hatch and Victor Jacobo have spoken about the emotions they went through at the time of their babies’ birth, and thanked the doctors for their incredible care.
‘To see them breathing, kicking… it’s just truly awesome,’ says Haper’s dad Victor Jacobo.
‘We just can’t thank everyone enough for being there and helping us through these trying times. For the rest of my life, I’m going to be thanking them.’
Esophageal atresia is typically detected within the first few days of life, but can also be diagnosed in the womb from 23 weeks of age.
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