The Guinness Book of World Records documents some of the most amazing accomplishments known to humankind. However, a recent announcement from the organization concerning a baby boy is one that should be celebrated. Curtis Zy-Keith Means was born on July 5, 2020, at only twenty-one weeks and one day into his mother’s pregnancy. Not only did Curtis have to face the challenging circumstances of being born so prematurely, but he also needed to face the additional challenge of being born at the height of the global pandemic while it was ravaging southern states like Alabama, filling up emergency room beds, and causing statewide shortages on hospital staff and other resources.
At the time of his birth, Curtis weighed just 14.8 ounces, which is less than a pound! The newborn baby required immediate intervention from doctors and nurses at the Alabama institution where he was born. However, he has managed to survive past his first birthday, which earned him a record in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s most premature baby to survive.
Curtis’s mother, Michelle Butler, never expected her son to arrive as early as he did. It came about suddenly, and she had to rush to the Alabama hospital at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, to undergo emergency procedures to see if they could save the premature baby. She arrived at the hospital on July 4, 2020, and gave birth to her very young boy the following day. Doctors were not hopeful that he would survive.
“The medical staff told me that they don’t normally keep babies at that age,” Butler told Guinness World Records.
“Survival at this gestational age has never happened before, so before Curtis was born, his chances of survival would have been far less than one percent,” said Dr. Colm Travers, a professor in the neonatology division of the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Any baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered to be premature. Premature babies do not face great odds — babies born before twenty-four weeks of pregnancy face about a fifty percent chance of survival. But babies born before twenty-two weeks, as was the case with Curtis, rarely survive for very long at all.
Premature babies often face health complications because vital organs, including the lungs, are some of the last things to develop while in the womb. If babies leave their mother’s bodies too early, they simply do not get enough time for their bodies to develop, which means they require advanced medical support to help them survive.
Curtis, meanwhile, responded well to medical treatment and began to grow over time.
“He showed initially that he responded to oxygen, his heart rate went up, his numbers went up…” said Dr. Brian Sims, the attending physician for Curtis. “He was giving us a lot of positive feedback that…he wanted to survive.”
Doctors were surprised that Curtis did so well because he was born so early and was so tiny.
Dr. Travers told Guinness World Records, “The first thing that struck me when I saw Curtis was how tiny he was, how fragile his skin was. I was amazed at such a young age that he was alive and that he was responding to the treatments. Initially, Curtis was on a lot of breathing support and medication for his heart and lungs to keep him alive. Then over the next several weeks, we were able to decrease the amount of support… When he was about three months old, we were finally able to take him off the ventilator. That was a special moment for me.”
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