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'Miracle baby' born at 22 weeks breaks Tulane hospital record

Born at only 22 weeks, he earned the title of the youngest gestational-age baby to graduate from Tulane's Lakeside NICU
Credit: WWL-TV

NEW ORLEANS — Born at Tulane Lakeside Hospital four months before his due date, Russell William Appold Jr. finally went home more than four months later on Thursday, graduating from Tulane's Lakeside NICU as the most premature baby to ever do so.

"His parents, Natasha Williams and Russell Appold Sr., were often at his side in the NICU, helping to care for him, hold him and give skin-to-skin contact, and provide the kind of love only a mother and father can give," a release from the hospital said.

Neonatal doctors were in the room when Russell Jr. was born May 22 to begin saving his life as soon as it started. 

"That was the beginning of a long journey for baby Russell and his family,"  release from the hospital said. "Russell William Appold Jr. is a miracle baby and a fighter."

Doctors have been able to keep extremely premature infants like Russell Jr. alive more often in the last decade, the hospital said. They're more likely to survive, now.

For essentially all his life so far, Russell Jr. has been fighting for his life, making slow progress. 

He gained weight and gained the ability to stay warm on his own. His lungs grew, and his breathing improved over the 133 days he spent in NICU.

“He was so small he could fit in my hand,” Russell Appold Sr. said. “But now he’s a chunky baby.”

Russell Jr.'s mother, Nathasha, said she was looking forward to telling her baby about his struggle to survive and the people who helped him stay alive.

“As he grows, we will tell him stories of the dedicated nurses and doctors and staff members at Tulane Lakeside Hospital who helped a 22- week-old baby get to the point of coming home,” she said.

Russel Jr. and his parents left the hospital in grand style on Thursday with a parade through the hospital. 

Baby Russell’s car seat was tucked into a decorated wagon, and his mother donned a crown as his father waved a jeweled scepter in a parade through hospital halls. 

A sendoff fit for a king and fighter.

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