Tiny grads are getting special celebrations during the coronavirus pandemic, too!
Baby Gloria was born on Leap Day, Feb. 29, when her mother, who was just 26 weeks pregnant, had an emergency cesarean section. The little girl weighed a mere 2 pounds and went immediately to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at South Texas Health System’s McAllen Medical Center, where she spent the next 80 days.
To celebrate the day she finally got to go home, mom Alana Patten sewed her an itty-bitty graduation gown and cap and put a little pearl necklace on her. Gloria’s nurses waved pom-poms and cheered as she headed out and home.
You can see photos from Gloria’s celebratory departure from the hospital below.
Babies born at 26 weeks typically have about an 80% chance of survival, according to recent statistics.
The earliest preemie to survive was born at 21 weeks in 2017. The smallest preemie was just 8.6 ounces when she was born at 23 weeks gestation. The latter was pictured with a tiny cap on her head the day she left the hospital at five months old.
COVID-19 made Gloria’s NICU stay more complicated due to extra precautions taken at hospitals to prevent the disease’s spread.
“It is always hard to have a baby in the NICU and right now it’s even worse. At Valley Baptist only 1 person can see the baby once a day and only for 30 mins,” said Facebook commenter Jennifer Ramirez on a post about the baby, referencing a different hospital. “It just Rips at your heart. I’m so happy for you mama!”
The Pattens could only see their daughter one at a time. Her father, Jon, is a home healthcare worker and was worried about his exposure to COVID-19 on the job, so he saw her less and only held her for the first time when she returned home on May 19.
Alana visited almost daily, reading to her daughter, checking in at the start of each nursing shift when she wasn’t there and continuing to express breast milk for Gloria.
“Being in the NICU is already an emotional issue,” she told Channel 5 News KRGV. “Then being separated, and then having to go in one at a time and all the restrictions, which have been for her safety, but it has been very, very difficult.”
Gloria went home with an oxygen tank as a precaution but is breathing on her own and weighed 6 pounds on her discharge date. Doctors expect her to grow at a normal pace but will be monitoring her as she gets older.
Congratulations to Gloria and her parents, all reunited at last!