World’s Tiniest Baby Survives Against All Odds

By Paula Liu

A baby born no heavier than an apple, thought to be the world’s tiniest baby on record, was recently released from the hospital, according to multiple reports.

The baby, named by the Sharp Mary Birch Hospital as Saybie, was born in December 2018, according to the hospital’s news release.

She weighed just 8.6 ounces—roughly the weight of an average apple—and was possibly the world’s tiniest baby, according to the Tiniest Babies Registry from the University of Iowa.

A photo of Saybie's birth information.
A photo of Saybie’s birth information. (Sharp HealthCare)

For the next five months, Saybie stayed in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), receiving extensive care from hospital staff. She was discharged in May and at the time of release, had reached a weight of five pounds.

Saybie’s mother experienced some pregnancy complications, according to the news release. In a video provided in the news release, Saybie’s mother recalled her feelings on the day of Saybie’s birth.

“It was the scariest day of my life,” said Saybie’s mother. “I just felt very uncomfortable, and I thought, ‘maybe this is part of the pregnancy.'”

But the complications meant that Saybie’s mother had to undergo an emergency cesarean section and Saybie was delivered at 23 weeks—just a little more than half the regular 40-week pregnancy period. Saybie had not been gaining weight inside her mother’s womb, which put her mother’s life at immediate risk, according to the news release.

“They told me I had preeclampsia,” she said. “My blood pressure was very, very high—over 200—and they had to deliver her really quick. And I kept telling them that she’s not going to survive, she’s only 23 weeks.”

Immediately after being born, Saybie was stabilized by the resident neonatologist, Paul Wozniak, and transferred to the NICU for further care and observation. Doctors weren’t even sure whether Saybie would survive, and told Saybie’s father that he might spend an hour at most with his daughter before she died.

“But that hour turned into two hours, which turned into a day, which turned into a week,” Saybie’s mother said.

A photo of Saybie at three pounds.
A photo of Saybie at three pounds. (Sharp HealthCare)

The news of a tiny baby being born in the hospital traveled fast; it caught the attention of a lot of nurses.

“Well, I had heard about her. I heard that we had such a tiny baby and it sounded unbelievable because I mean, she’s about half of the weight as a normal 23-weeker,” said Emma Wiest, one of the nurses who took care of Saybie at the hospital. “So I went and saw her and just kind of … you could barely see her on the bed, she was so tiny.”

Saybie was born a “micro preemie”—a term used for babies born earlier than 28 weeks. According to the hospital, these types of babies usually come with numerous medical conditions, challenges, and complications that can prove life-threatening, including brain bleeds, and lung and heart problems.

Fortunately for Saybie, she did not exhibit or experience any of the problems that affect a lots of other micro preemies.

A photo of Saybie at four pounds.
A photo of Saybie at four pounds. (Sharp HealthCare)

The Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns possesses the largest Level III NICU in all of San Diego. It is considered to be one of the best hospitals in the world when it comes to micro-preemie care.

“No one expects their baby to be born with complications,” senior vice president and chief executive officer of the hospital, Trisha Khaleghi, said, according to the news release.”But when the unexpected occurs, Sharp Mary Birch is equipped with the latest technologies, equipment, research, and specially trained experts to care for even the world’s smallest baby.”

One of the nurses who worked at the hospital, Spring Bridges, said, “We do everything we know how to do as well as we can, and after that, it really up to our babies.

“So some really have the strength to go through what they have to go through and grow outside the womb.”

The strength of baby Saybie had touched many of the nurses who worked with her. Nurse Kim Norby said, “even when I’m not here, I think about her—how she’s doing today … she’s a miracle, that’s for sure.”

“I just want her to know how strong she is … if she can start off where she was and do as well as she can be, there’s nothing she can’t do,” Wiest said.

A photo of nurse Devyn when Saybie was ready to go home
A photo of nurse Devyn when Saybie was ready to go home in May 2019. (Sharp HealthCare)

Devyn Kohl, another nurse said in regards to the types of babies they take care of at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital, “we definitely get really invested in these primaries that we have. It’s kind of cool to follow them and see them get better. If they’re having an off day, we’re like, ‘what’s going on with you?’ So, we invest a lot into them. And we love it.”

Saybie’s mother said in the video that the nurses who took care of Saybie while she was in the hospital were so amazing and sweet, and that she would be always thankful for them.

She said that the nurses all took part in creating signs celebrating the little milestones in baby Saybie’s life, such as coming off of the breathing tube, or having reached a certain weight, or even celebrating Saybie’s mother’s birthday.

A photo of nurse Michelle when Saybie was ready to go home in May 2019. (Sharp HealthCare)

“I’ve been waiting for this day. I want to go, we want to go … if we go home today, I don’t think we can forget this date,” Saybie’s mother said, regarding Saybie’s graduation from NICU, and the hospital.

“We should celebrate this day every time, huh? It’s going to be a special moment for us.”