Baby born at 21 weeks at Children’s Minnesota defies the odds

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A baby born in Minnesota at 21-weeks-old, is home for the holidays. Richard Hutchinson was discharged from the Mother Baby Center at Children’s Minnesota on Friday, defying the odds.

“They didn’t really think he was going to make it and he’s coming home now,” said Beth Hutchinson.

She and her husband Rick Hutchinson went to the hospital in June when she unexpectedly went into labor. Richard came into the world on June 5th, weighing just more than a pound.

“It was so emotional just laying eyes on him,” said Beth Hutchinson. “I cried for I don’t know how long because he was so little.”

Richard was so small, he could fit in the palm of a hand.

“When he was born, they gave him zero percent chance of survival,” said Rick Hutchinson.

They told us the first two months were especially difficult.

“The first month they weren’t even sure he was going to make it,” said Beth Hutchinson. “It was really hard. You know in the back of your head [and] your mind that his odds weren’t great.”

Still, they advocated for him. The couple drove from Somerset, Wisconsin every day to be by Richard’s side. He kept fighting through the set-backs.

“He very much has, each month, gotten stronger and shown ‘yeah I’m going to make it, I’m going to do it’,” said Beth Hutchinson. “We learned through this whole process that Richard has his own agenda.”

His neonatologist, Dr. Stacy Kern, told us Richard is the youngest patient she’s ever treated.

“It’s incredibly rare for a baby at 21 and 2/7th weeks to be resuscitated, let alone survive,” she said. “I think Richard has surprised everyone at Children’s Minnesota. He’s taught us all how resilient tiny babies like him can be.”

Dr. Kern told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that Richard was born at the halfway point of gestation, missing a “tremendous” amount of growth.

“One of the biggest things as a neonatologist you worry about is lung development because their lungs are so immature at that point,” said Dr. Kern. “We were nervous about, truly […] were we going to be able to ventilate him, essentially? So that was huge. Even though he was 21 and 2/7ths weeks, we could oxygenate him, we could ventilate him and that just goes to show there is still so much unknown and that we have yet to learn.”

Richard was placed on a ventilator immediately and needed oxygen. For about the first two weeks, he was given nutrition through a vein because he was so ill.

“A lot of this was learning along the way,” said Dr. Kern. “There’s not a lot of research out there for how to care for a 21 weeker.”

His doctors have been carefully monitoring his lung and brain development. Dr. Kern said time will tell whether Richard will need physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy.

According to Dr. Kern, he is one of the youngest babies to survive anywhere in the world.

“Moving forward, I think that there is going to be a lot of interest in watching him as he grows and develops,” she said.

Beth and Rick Hutchinson support having the case studied.

“If it will help other doctors help other babies, do it,” Beth Hutchinson said. “Because that’s another baby that can go home with their parents.”

Richard still needs extra care. He continues to use oxygen, has a nebulizer and relies on a feeding tube, although he is learning to use a bottle. His parents called their house a “mini-hospital”. They also had to take CPR and other classes before bringing him home.

They’ve started a Facebook page to share his story and help guide parents of other premature babies.

“Helping them get through their hard time with their little one,” said Beth Hutchinson. “Human kindness, it goes a long way.”

She said they’re encouraging other parents to advocate for their own children.

“Richard is here because we wanted them to try, we wanted them to give him a chance,” said Beth Hutchinson. “He’s definitely given us the drive to keep pushing forward too because he’s shown us even small things can be amazing and bold and strong.”

Dr. Kern said she’s “incredibly excited” about Richard’s future. She told us, however, each case is different.

“I hope that they take-away from this that babies like Richard can survive,” said Dr. Kern. “I would have to say, I’m not advocating for resuscitating all 21 weekers. At Children’s Minnesota, we do not have a black and white line where we do or do not resuscitate. We really are very thoughtful […] it’s a team approach and we really try to come up with the best plan for the family.”

If you would like to help Richard’s family, click here.