Madeline Mann, the world's smallest surviving baby now 15

Madeline Mann, the world's smallest surviving baby weighing 9.9 ounces or 0.28 kilograms at 26 weeks, was born 15 years ago at Loyola University Medical Center. Medical progress of her 14-year follow up will be released in a letter published in the Aug. 19, 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Although many premature babies survive, Madeline’s survival and the level of her development are truly miracles,” said Dr. Jonathan Muraskas, corresponding author of the NEJM letter, who provided critical care to Madeline in the neonatal intensive care unit at Loyola for four months after she was born.

“I remember hearing the softest sound, almost like a kitten,” said Robyn Leslie, Madeline’s mother when she remembers her delivery 15 years ago. “Then I realized it was Madeline crying once she was born,” noted Leslie. Leslie was unable to clearly see Madeline when the doctors took her closer to her because her vision was blurred from the effects of a medication. She had no idea what to expect because of Madeline’s extremely low birth weight. “However, she has overcome a lot of barriers,” said Leslie. “Madeline has written her own story, and is doing so well both academically and socially.”

In fact, Madeline has been an honor student during her time in junior high school. She is getting prepared to achieve another major milestone when she starts high school on Aug. 25, 2004. Her high school entrance exams placed her in the 83rd percentile nationally. In addition, she has no major health issues. Her only hospitalization occurred when she was 4 years of age due to pneumonia, although she has occasionally experienced bouts of asthma.

Over this 14-year period, Madeline averaged an annual weight gain of four pounds and height of 3.8 inches, according to the letter in the NEJM. The 50th percentile for weight and length for females at age 14 is 110 pounds and 64 inches respectively. She currently weighs 60 pounds and is 4 feet, 7 inches tall or 53 3/4inches.

Describing her as extraordinary, positive, and “the light of my life and many lives,” Leslie indicates that her daughter, Madeline, wants to become a psychologist in the future to help other people with their challenges.

In her spare time, Madeline enjoys several hobbies, including playing the violin, listening to music, chatting on the Internet, handwriting letters to new friends she has met on the Internet, rollerblading, camping and horse back riding.

Madeline also has been active in community service projects. Last summer, she participated in Harper College’s Linus project – blankets that are prepared and distributed to cancer pediatric patients as “security blankets.” The term Linus comes from the character in Snoopy’s Peanuts – Linus Van Pelt – who inspired the term “security blanket.” Her community service spirit has not stopped. During junior high school, she worked in a food pantry, assisted and interacted with residents at a nursing home, and most recently, returned from a mission trip in Grand Rapids, Mich., to rehabilitate houses.

“I want Madeline to be whatever she wants to be and be happy at what she does,” Leslie said. “I want her to share her spirit with everyone, she is a great gift,” Leslie added. Madeline turned 15 years old on June 27.

From 1936 to June of 2004, there were 58 newborns worldwide surviving with birth weights less than 13 ounces, according to world literature. Thirty-eight babies are reported in the United States. Six of those babies received care by Loyola physicians or individuals who trained at Loyola. Loyola has cared for more than 1,700 newborns weighing less than two pounds in the past two decades. In addition, Loyola’s children’s hospital has among the best survival rates in the country for premature babies, with 90 percent survival rate for 28-week gestation based in survival rates published in 2000 – the most recent available data – by the National Institutes of Health.

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