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Medical technology has given preemies better chance to live

When Cerenity Easter was born at 25 weeks and six days, she weighed about three pounds. But the feisty little girl, despite spending most of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit, has a better chance to survive today than ever before due to improvements in technology and medicine.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: November 28, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: November 27, 2013

She weighs only about 3 pounds, but Cerenity still has a lot of fight in her.

It's hard not to be a little fiery when you've spent the first few weeks of your life fighting to survive.

“Feisty little thing,” said her great grandmother, Nancy Glory “I haven't seen a baby so tiny be so feisty.”

Cerenity Sage Easter was born at 25 weeks and six days, about three months too early.

She has spent most of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit, and she'll likely be there through Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If she's lucky, she'll go home near Jan. 6, her due date.

Cerenity's mother, Rachel Plymale, remembers how red Cerenity was when she was born.

Her lungs weren't fully developed, and Cerenity was quickly rushed away. Plymale didn't see her again until several hours later.

When Plymale first saw her infant daughter, she was scared.

“I didn't really know what to think,” she said. “I was happy she was alive, but I didn't know if she was going to make it or not.”

Babies like Cerenity used to not have much of a chance.

Cerenity's neonatologist, Dr. Ajay Verma, said as technology and medicine have improved, doctors have been able to push the limits further.

“Approximately 20 years ago, we used to write off babies who were born about 28 weeks,” Verma said.

But now, babies born at 28 weeks do pretty well, he said.

It's the babies born at 22 to 23 weeks, though, that still have trouble.

Almost 30 percent of babies born at 23 weeks of pregnancy survive, while about 50 to 60 percent of babies born at 24 weeks, about 75 percent born at 25 weeks, and more than 90 percent born at 27 to 28 weeks, survive, according to the March of Dimes.

Those numbers could improve as well, though.

“I always tell the parents we are good, but we are not as good as the mom yet,” Verma said. “We have not created the intrauterine environment yet, but that's a possibility that maybe 20 or 30 years down the road we may have artificial wombs available to us.”

For now, babies in neonatal intensive care units spend the early part of their life in incubators. The temperature in Cerenity's incubator stays in the high 90s because she can't yet regulate her own temperature.

And she still wears a ventilator to help her breathe.

Verma said there are two main problems with a baby's lungs when they're born as early as Cerenity.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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