She was born at just 22 weeks. Now she's home with her family

Posted at 9:23 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 23:37:30-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A baby who can only be described as a miracle is finally home with her family after four months in the NICU at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

When her water broke at 22 weeks, Shantel Allmon thought she was having a miscarriage.

Shantel's doctors immediately sent her to VCU Medical Center to deliver her daughter, Leilani, who only weighed one pound.

“They're amazing babies to take care of and they're very special,” said Dr. Joe Khoury, a neonatologist at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Statistically, Leilani's odds of survival were very low. However, with around-the-clock care from a team of specialists in the NICU, Leilani thrived.

"We have amazingly experienced nurses and respiratory therapists and all the equipment that we need to do that here. We also have all the surgical and sub-specialties that we need for babies like her so we have the support that we need. So having that comfort, knowing that everybody here is good at doing this," Dr. Khoury said.

The medical team made all the difference for Shantel, who was discharged days after giving birth and had to go home without her baby.

“If it wasn’t for her primary nurse Morgan, I don't think I would have been able to make it,” said Shantel. “She was sending me pictures every other day, calling me every other day with updates if even the smallest thing changed. The holidays were the roughest for us.”

Juggling two older children, ages three and four, while also making time to visit and bond with Leilani in the NICU was hectic for the Allmons. They relied on “a little village” of family and friends to make it through Leilani’s four month stay at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

“I didn't like that her siblings couldn't meet her yet, none of my family members, no one was allowed up there because of COVID,” said Shantel. “Literally only me and her father could see her so it definitely was hard on the whole family.”

One day after her original due date, Leilani went home to meet her big brother and sister in Henrico County.

“I was at the delivery the day she was born and seeing how small she was, was really surreal,” said Dr. Khoury of Leilani’s incredible progress. “Now she’s feeding everything orally and that's really amazing for a 22 week’er.”

Dr. Khoury says success with cases like Leilani give both medical professionals and parents new hope for babies born premature.

“As word is going out that we are able to do this more and more, we're seeing more patients come to VCU at this early age.”

Historically babies born at less than 28 weeks suffered low survival rates. At 22 weeks, estimates ranging from 10 to 20 percent. Guinness World Records recently certified a boy born at 21 weeks as the "world's most premature baby to survive." What’s more, most babies born extremely premature have long-term healthcare needs such as special medication or a feeding tube.

Now eight pounds, Leilani requires no special care other than a daily vitamin.

“It’s such a relief to have her home and I can’t say enough what an awesome hospital Children’s was for my family,” Shantel said as she snuggled her baby girl.

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