Twins born at 22 weeks go home, become youngest surviving premature babies born at Cleveland Clinic

Twin siblings Kimyah and DJ have defied the odds and earned the title of two of the youngest twins ever to survive premature birth at the Cleveland Clinic, born at just 22 weeks.

Kim Thomas, their mother, told ABC News that when she was 21 weeks pregnant, she found out that she was four centimeters dilated, a signal that she was to be in labor soon, which put her in fear. Because she was only about halfway to a full-term pregnancy, the doctors at Cleveland Clinic did their best to halt the labor process.

Dr. Firas Saker, the medical director of the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Hillcrest Hospital, in Mayfield Heights, said “The odds of survival is very low,” for babies who are born that early.

Despite the doctors’ efforts, Thomas still went through labor, and Kimyah and DJ were born on October 12, 2022, at just 22 weeks and one day. According to Guinness World Records, the youngest premature twins to ever survive were born just one day earlier, at 22 weeks, in March 2022.

Kimyah and DJ didn’t even weigh a pound each when they were born, and they were immediately rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit. Damante Jackson, the twins’ father, recounted that the doctors told them “Even if they do survive, it’s not likely they’d make it the first three days.” Jackson added that even though he doubts they will remember it one day, it was a difficult experience for the twins.

According to Cleveland Clinic, Thomas spent nearly every single day and night with the twins in the NICU after they were born. Though she couldn’t hold them for a month because of how delicate their skin was, she worked with Kimyah and DJ’s care team to help in any way she could.

Children’s staff at the clinic disclosed that they had never worked with such little babies as the twins. “Her [Kimyah’s] extended hand actually wasn’t even big enough to cover my thumbnail,” John Dickens, a neonatal respiratory therapist and a NICU cardiopulmonary supervisor at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hillcrest Hospital, recalled.

One of the nurses, Rebecca, also remarked: “They fit in the palm of my hand.” While in the NICU, DJ had a lung collapse and Kimyah suffered from a minor brain bleed. All the while, their family never lost hope.

Their mother shared that she celebrated all the milestones with them at the NICU, including, their baby shower, their first Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s.

Finally, after 138 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Kimyah, and DJ were healthy enough to go home on February 27, making them officially the youngest surviving premature twins who were born at the Cleveland Clinic.

In celebration of the twins’ survival, Kimyah and DJ’s care team including Dr. Saker, Sara, and Becky Stuart, RN, came together to hold a graduation ceremony where the twins donned pink and blue caps and gowns on the day of their discharge.

As Thomas and her family made their way out of the hospital, the halls were lined up with cheering caregivers who had bonded with the twins over the months they were there. Currently, Kimyah and DJ are in good health, according to their parents, and will turn one year old next month.

Dollita Okine

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