An Alabama boy who was born 19 weeks early and weighing less than a pound exceeded doctors’ expectations to become certified as the world’s most premature baby to survive.
Curtis Means came into the world on 25 July 2020 at only 21 weeks and one day of gestation.
Now a healthy 16-month-old, Curtis is the new record holder for surviving premature babies by Guinness World Records and University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital on Wednesday.
Dr Brian Sims, the attending physician when Curtis and his twin sister C’Asya were born, said the children were only expected to live a matter of hours. C’Asya died at one day old.
“We typically advise for compassionate care in situations of such extremely preterm births,” Dr Sims said in a statement. “This allows the parents to hold their babies and cherish what little time they may have together.”
Hospital staff and Curtis’ mother, Michelle Butler, watched in awe as he continued growing stronger and stronger.
“He was striking even from the first breath,” Dr Sims told The New York Times. “He just showed that he was going to be a strong, strong fellow from day one.”
Ms Butler said she was crushed by the death of her daughter, but fought to stay strong for Curtis.
“I had to pull myself together and be strong for him,” the mother told the Times.
She described his time in the hospital as “a roller coaster”, culminating in him being discharged at 275 days old.
“Being able to finally take Curtis home and surprise my older children with their younger brother is a moment I will always remember,” Ms Butler said.
While Curtis still requires supplemental oxygen and a feeding tube, Dr Sims said his progress thus far has been astonishing.
“We do not know what all the future will hold for Curtis, since there is no one else like him,” Dr Sims said in the hospital statement. “He started writing his own story the day he was born. That story will be read and studied by many and, hopefully, will help improve care of premature infants around the world.”
The record for most premature baby to survive was previously held by Richard Hutchinson, born in Wisconsin in June 2020 at the gestational age of 21 weeks and two days – just one day more than Curtis.