A baby boy who was born at 21 weeks into his mother’s pregnancy has been named the “World’s Most Premature Infant to Survive,” by Guinness World Records.
Curtis Means was born on Jul. 5, 2020 to his mother, Michelle Butler. The record breaking baby of Alabama was born alongside a twin sister, C’Asya, who died one day later.
Butler told Good Morning America she recalls praying that one of her newborns would make it through the delivery.
“My prayers have been answered,” she said. “I gave God my little girl and he let me continue to be the mother to Curtis.”
When he was first born, he weighed just 15 ounces. He was so delicate, Butler said she had to wait four weeks to hold him. At that time, he could fit in the palm of her hand.
For the next nine months, Curtis was cared for in the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU) at University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Women and Infants Center.
Dr. Brian Sims, the attending physician on-call when Butler arrived and professor of pediatrics in the UAB Division of Neonatology, said Curtis “showed a lot of response to the things we were doing.”
“It definitely was a surprise that a baby at his age was as much of a fighter, or as strong as he was,” he continued. “The truth is no baby has survived at this particular age…there was no data.”
Butler traveled from her home to RNICU three or four times a week to see her son. On the days she couldn’t make the commute, which was three-hours round trip, the nurses arranged video calls so she could see Curtis.
“It was ups and downs, good and bad days,” she recalled. “For a couple of weeks he’d do really well and then he’d get sick and go about five steps backwards.”
Curtis had less than a 1% chance of survival at birth, according to doctors, but beat the odds and left the RNICU after 275 days. He got to meet his siblings, ages 14 and 7, for the first time when Butler took him home on Apr. 6, 2020.
“I surprised my kids,” Butler said about her children who were unable to visit Curtis due to COVID-19 restrictions. “They didn’t know we were coming home and they were so excited.”
Butler and Curtis returned to the University of Alabama Birmingham’s Women and Infants Center six months later for another surprise. Doctors and nurses presented them with the Guinness World Records certificate.
Curtis is now 16-months-old and nearly 19 pounds. He’s still on oxygen and a feeding tube, but should wean off both in the future, according to Sims.
Butler said he’s a “happy baby” who smiles and laughs at you. To other parents of premature babies, she offers some advice.
“Us parents are the biggest advocates for our children, so whatever you feel in your heart you go by it,” she shared. “And continue to pray.”