Chelsey at 4 months, with parents Charles Hansbrough and Tamika Harris. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago…)
Eight days doesn't sound like a long time. But for these twin girls born far too early, eight days became the difference between life and death.
Tamika Harris was just 22 weeks into her pregnancy when she gave birth to the first twin, Chazey, who at just over a pound was too weak to survive. This Chicago Tribune story [Updated 10:20 p.m. Friday: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the story was published in the Allentown Morning Call.] reports what happened next:
"Doctors expected the other twin, daughter Chelsey, to follow quickly. But she didn't. Something kept Chelsey back, kept her inside her mother, kept her safe long enough for her lungs to grow and save her life. Chelsey stayed inside the womb for eight more days."
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says most pregnancies last about 40 weeks. Babies born between 32 and 37 weeks are considered preterm, and those before 32 weeks as early preterm.
And the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development lists these potential health challenges for premature babies:
"Low birth weight
Breathing problems because of underdeveloped lungs
Underdeveloped organs or organ systems
Greater risk for life-threatening infections
Greater risk for a serious lung condition, known as respiratory distress syndrome
Greater risk for cerebral palsy
Greater risk for learning and development disabilities" At birth, Chelsey, who weighed 15.5 ounces, had just an 18% chance of survival. She spent 100 days in neonatal intensive care -- after the eight crucial days she remained inside her mother.