One of the world’s smallest surviving babies just came home to Connecticut after spending his first nine months of life in the hospital.
John Florio will never have to look any further than his own hand to remember just how little his little boy was at birth. His newborn son fit entirely within it.
“My wedding band fit easily over his hand and foot,” Florio said.
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Jaimie Florio was only 19 weeks pregnant when doctors noticed her baby’s growth falling behind because of IUGR, or intrauterine growth restriction.
At 25 weeks, she was admitted to Westchester Medical Center in New York. By 26 weeks, the baby’s life was in jeopardy. If doctors didn’t deliver immediately, they risked stillbirth.
On a Friday afternoon in July, baby Connor Florio came out fighting – all 11 ounces of him.
“The surgeon told us he came out swinging,” Jaimie said. “He said he was the tiniest baby he’s delivered in 40 years and the feistiest.”
According to Dr. Dennis Davidson, unit chief of the infant floor at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in New York, babies born at 500 grams have about a 10 percent chance of survival. Connor weighed far less, at just 310 grams.
“A 26-week baby born at normal weight would probably have an 80 to 90 percent chance of survival today,” Davidson said. “However, Connor was less than half of the appropriate weight for a 26-week baby. Babies who are that small barely have a chance for survival.”
Two weeks would pass before the proud parents could even hold their son. So began a nine-month hospital stay full of scares and setbacks, including a brain bleed, a hole in his heart, eye disease and a potentially deadly infection. Connor required intensive respiratory support including a ventilator, developmental care and feeding tubes as he struggled to gain weight.
Jaimie and John leaned on each other and their NICU nurses for support through the terrifying ordeal.
“I remember telling [Jaimie] that if something bad does happen, you need to enjoy the time that we did have with him,” John said.
But with the expert medical care he received at Blythedale and Maria Fareri children's hospitals, this little superhero defied the odds.
With tiny clothes made for teddy bears, Jaimie and John found fun in the face of fear. A NICU nurse purchased a Superman outfit for Connor in October from Build-A-Bear, inspiring the parents to dress him in colorful costumes for every holiday after that: A pilgrim for Thanksgiving, an elf for Christmas, Cupid, a leprechaun, even Abraham Lincoln for President’s Day – a wink to his dad’s job as a history teacher. It gave the family something to look forward to.
“You’ve got to smile and find the joy in everything that you do, because those moments are going to disappear,” John said. “And if you don’t find the joy in them, you’re not going to want to remember them.”
Now it’s time to make new memories at home. After 270 days in the hospital, Connor finally came home to Danbury on April 9. He’s still on oxygen, a feeding tube and a monitor, and takes medications eight times a day. But overall, he’s happy and healthy, weighing almost 11 pounds, and doctors expect him to thrive.
“He cracks us up because he’s such a goofball. He likes to stick his tongue out. He smiles all the time. He’s got a smirk-y smile, talks,” John said.
Who knew someone so tiny could teach a life lesson so big: No matter the odds, there is always hope.
“Even if it’s one in 500, why can’t you be the one?”