Baby Born at 28 Weeks Defies Odds, Now Thriving as Bilingual Toddler

SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES - MAY 17: Premature newborn hand in the Neonatal Intesive Care Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on May 17, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. The Neonatal care unit at Westmead Children's Hospital specialized in specialy care for newborns. (Photo by Jennifer Polixenni Brankin/Getty Images)
Jennifer Polixenni Brankin/Getty Images

When Dorothy Wang was born at 28 weeks gestation, doctors told her parents her chances of survival were slim and, if she did live, the odds of having a “normal” life were even slimmer.

But not only will Dorothy, now three, enjoy Christmas on a Disney Cruise this year, she is leading a normal life — above average if being a bilingual toddler who speaks English and Mandarin is taken into account.

“Wow, big boat! Mickey Mouse!” Dorothy said when shown photos of the trip she is set to take with her parents on December 23, the NewYork Post reported.

The family, who lives in New York City, spoke with the Post about their daughter’s journey.

“Dorothy is finally pretty healthy, so we wanted to have a very special Christmas,” her mom, Jessica, said. “There is so much to celebrate!”

The Post reported:

The holiday marks a joyous ending to a long, painful medical journey for Dorothy, who was born prematurely at 28 weeks.

Besides the usual hazards of an early birth — Dorothy was delivered by emergency C-section weighing just 2.1 pounds — the baby contracted listeria in-utero, which likely sparked her mother’s early labor.

Dr. Jeff Perlman, director of newborn medicine at New York-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital, said that when Jessica was delivered there April 17, 2014, she wasn’t breathing.

“She was extremely premature and very sick,” Perlman said.

Doctors then discovered that Dorothy’s condition worsened when she was diagnosed with a dangerous sepsis infection that was causing her brain to bleed, according to the Post.

“We told the parents, ‘Dorothy could die,’” Perlman said, adding that he thought her odds of survival were between ten and 15 percent.

The doctor also told Dorothy’s parents that she could have severe neurological damage that might mean she would never walk or talk.

Then the doctors caring for Dorothy told the parents something some would consider controversial for parents undergoing such a traumatic experience.

“We told them there are worse outcomes than death,” Perlman said.

Jessica, a marketing director at Mars Inc. who came to New York from China about four years ago, had other thoughts.

“I felt so sorry for her, so small in the incubator and all of the tubes and IVs in her little body,” Jessica told the Post. “I also felt guilty and wondered if it was my fault she got sick, that I didn’t do enough to take care of myself.”

Now the doctor is telling a different story about Dorothy and her devoted parents.

“Dorothy is a medical miracle, yes. But she’s also a miracle of hope and willpower,’’ Perlman said. “Dorothy survived because of an inner fight. Whether that came from her parents or her own inner spirit, it’s hard to say.”

Dorothy spent 115 days in the hospital before being taken home with mom and dad, Sulei Zhuang, who works at Mars, although Jessica quit her to stay home with her daughter.

But then another miracle: Dorothy began walking and talking so well that she was able to attend pre-school.

“Cognitively, she is catching up,” Jessica told the Post. “She can problem-solve and pretend-play and plays with other children.”

“The way she is progressing is remarkable,’’ Perlman said, adding that the next milestone of Dorothy’s journey will come when she takes psychometric tests when she is six years old.

“The way she is progressing, I’m expecting a happy outcome,” Perlman said.

According to a University of Washington website that conducts trials and studies on premature births, of 100 babies born at 28-weeks gestation in the United States, an average of eight die and 92 will live to go home.

The website states the developmental outcomes of the 92 survivors were as follows:

Severe Disability (10%)
Moderate Disability (10%)
Mild Disability (35%)
No Disability (45%)


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