Micro-preemie born 11.5 ounces celebrates 1st birthday after 127-day stay in NICU

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A micro-preemie is celebrating his first birthday after a four-and-a-half-month stay in the neonatal intensive care unit and surpassing doctors’ expectations.

Doctors said baby Jari Lopez had a 30% survival rate after concerns of fetal growth restriction combined with mom Amber Higgins’ preeclampsia diagnosis. Preeclampsia is described by Mayo Clinic as a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. It occurs one in 25 pregnancies, according to the CDC.

Higgins told Fox News Digital it was at her 20-week ultrasound when she learned Jari had been measuring small. She was then admitted to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she was monitored daily.

“There started being reversed blood flow, which wasn’t good,” Higgins said. “His heart rate was dropping, so they decided to do an emergency C-section.”

Doctors said baby Jari Lopez had a 30% survival rate after concerns of fetal growthrestriction combined with mom Amber Higgins’ preeclampsia diagnosis.
(Amber Higgins/Pediatrix Medical Group)

Jari was born 24 weeks gestational on Feb. 22, 2021, weighing 11.5 ounces, about the weight of a loaf of bread.

“They told us that there was a chance he would not make it,” Higgins said. 

“We took it day by day, we saw him in the NICU as much as we could. Dad was able to go see him during that time. He just kept saying he couldn’t believe how small he was,” she added of Jari’s father, Julian Lopez.

Mom Amber Higgins and dad Julian Lopez with their son, Jari Lopez, born on Feb. 22, 2021, in New Mexico.
(Amber Higgins/Pediatrix Medical Group)

Dr. Jennifer Anderson, neonatologist and medical director at Pediatrix Neonatology of New Mexico, said that with Jari being born so early, he required a breathing machine to support his lungs.

“Jari’s biggest issue when he was first born was his lungs,” Anderson, who helped treat Jari, told Fox News Digital. “The lungs aren’t totally developed when born at 24 weeks.”

Amber Higgins told Fox News Digital it was at her 20-week ultrasound when she learned her son, Jari, had been measuring small. She was then admitted to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
(Amber Higgins/Pediatrix Medical Group)

Anderson said that after Jari’s birth, she and her team were unsure if he’d survive.

“When he was first born only 325 grams, and we knew at that point he was the smallest baby taken cared of in our NICU, we knew it was going to be a very, very bumpy road taking care of him,” she added. “From our perspective things seemed to go pretty smoothly. There were no huge complications.”

Dr. Jennifer Anderson, neonatologist and medical director at Pediatrix Neonatology of New Mexico, with her team caring for Jari Lopez.
(Amber Higgins/Pediatrix Medical Group)

At 6 weeks old, Jari’s breathing tube was removed. He also had several blood transfusions and later, surgery for double hernia repair. 

Higgins said that she was finally able to hold her son when he was 1 month old, and on June 29, 2021, he was released from Pediatrix. Medical staff lined the hallways to give Jari and his family a ceremonial send-off. 

Staff at Pediatrix Neonatology of New Mexico, lined the hallways to give baby Jari and a ceremonial send-off after a 127-day stay in the NICU.
(Amber Higgins/Pediatrix Medical Group)

“The NICU is a really hard place to be and not just because of your own baby – there’s so many other babies and parents there,” Higgins said. “Dr. Anderson other doctors and nurses always asked us if we need anything … reminded us to eat, giving us water.”

Jari Lopez was born 24 weeks gestational on Feb. 22, 2021 weighing 11.5 ounces, about the weight of a loaf of bread.
(Amber Higgins/Pediatrix Medical Group)

“It was so nice [of them] taking of us as parents, not just our baby,” she added. “They provided comfort and companionship.”

Today, Jari is active and “very, very feisty,” Higgins said.

Today, baby Jari, who was born weighing 11.5 pounds, is active and "very, very feisty," his mom, Amber Higgins said. 
(Amber Higgins/Pediatrix Medical Group)

“He’s a little drama king. He definitely lets you know what he wants when he wants it … he’s a solid little guy now,” she said.

Higgins hopes Jari’s story gives other NICU parents hope.

For his first birthday, Jari will be having three separate parties so he can celebrate with all of his family in different cities in New Mexico. 

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