22-Week Twins “Graduate” from NICU, Beating 10% Chance of Survival

Premature twins Kimyah and DJ are finally home after “graduating” from the NICU against the odds. Born at just 22 weeks, these tiny fighters faced only a 10% chance of survival. They lived four months in the NICU and improved so much that the Cleveland Clinic staff in Ohio threw them a graduation ceremony to celebrate their move home.

The twins were the smallest babies some of the Ohio nurses have ever seen and could fit in their mother’s hands. When they were born, they immediately had to be resuscitated and intubated. Even the smallest-size diapers were too big for them.

The siblings were so fragile that their parents were not allowed to hold their babies for the first month after their birth. But their mother, Kimberly Thomas, didn’t leave their sides.

“I don’t think there was one day I didn’t spend at least a few minutes with them, just to talk to my babies,” she said. “I pretty much lived in the NICU for four-and-a-half months.”

While in the NICU, Kimyah suffered a small bleed on her brain and one of DJ’s lungs collapsed, but they still met their milestones and grew stronger despite these trials.

Against all odds, the twins persevered through 138 days in intensive care.

Hospital staff celebrated their miraculous homecoming with a special ‘graduation’ ceremony for the twins. The 11-month-old siblings sported caps and gowns to mark an incredible chapter of their journey. Nurse Becky Stuart, who cared for the twins, said: “During their time in the NICU, I treated them as if they were my own children. I love them and formed a bond with them that will stick with me forever.”

Now, almost one year old, the twins are catching up to their height and weight goals but thankfully they remain on target with their developmental milestones.

Mom Kimberly can now hold her babies as much as she wants! She added, “Kimyah and DJ are very active and love exploring. Thinking about everything they’ve been through, it was hard to imagine us ever getting to this point.”

“It was unclear if they would be able to do anything by themselves. Now, they’re trying to do everything by themselves,” she remarked.

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Kimyah and DJ are proof of the incredible advancements in medical care for extremely premature babies. A recent study conducted between 2013 and 2018 showed a significant improvement in survival rates for infants born between 22 and 28 weeks’ gestation. Nearly four out of five extremely premature babies, like Kimyah and DJ, survived and were assessed for various health and functional outcomes at 22-26 months corrected age.

These inspiring stories remind us that every life, no matter how small or weak, deserves a chance.

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