“He can survive. Let’s give him a chance,” Lee Seo-eun, who was 24 weeks pregnant, was told at Asan Medical Center on March 31. It was something she desperately wanted to hear. Her baby wasn’t growing in her womb due to a severe case of intrauterine growth retardation. At every hospital she visited, she was told that there was no hope. After countless nights of crying, she grabbed the hands of Professor Jeong Jin-hoon at Asan Medical Center, who said she should try.
The baby was severely premature. His growth was five weeks slower than the average. However, there was hope during the first treatment. The medical team noticed that he was small, but his fingers were longer than the average growth. Professor Jeong diagnosed that his growth was only stunted due to the lack of sufficient nutrients.
Lee’s son Jo Geon-woo was born by C-section on April 4. Born prematurely at 24 weeks and six days, his weight was only 288 grams – about one-tenth of the average newborns weighing around three kilograms – and his height was 23.5 centimeters.
Geon-woo was put in an incubator immediately after his birth. The medical team nicknamed him ‘Palpalee,’ which means a healthy one in Korean and the reverse number of his weight 288 grams at the time of birth, in the hope that he will grow strong. He suffered cardiac arrest, enteritis, pulmonary hypertension, and retinopathy of prematurity at the hospital but survived them with the medical team. After a hernia operation, he was finally discharged.
He left the hospital in a healthy state on Friday, 153 days after his birth. He was out of the incubator about four months after his birth. His weight was over two kilograms right before his discharge. “He survived many critical moments,” said OB/GYN Kim Ae-ran at Asan Medical Center, who was in charge of Geon-woo’s treatment. “I am so grateful for the hope that tiny babies show to survive.” Geon-woo has become the smallest surviving extreme premature baby, which is defined as those born under 400 grams, in South Korea.
Geon-woo’s journey is not over yet even after discharge. He needs to be fed the formula specially treated for premature babies eight times a day and some medications in between. “Geon-woo seemed to be unfamiliar with me at first, but now he holds my finger tightly when being fed,” said his mother, Lee. “I thank everyone who created such a miracle.”