Tiniest Surviving Preemie Turns 15

By Liz Townsend

Madeline Mann, the tiniest baby ever to survive birth, recently celebrated her 15th birthday. The Illinois teen was born by Caesarean section in 1989 at 27 weeks' gestation after her mother developed pre-eclampsia, a condition that can cause dangerously high blood pressure, according to the Associated Press (AP). She weighed only 9.9 ounces and was less than 10 inches long.

Writing in the August 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Dr. Jonathan Muraskas, who delivered Madeline at Loyola University Hospital in Maywood, Illinois, said that two factors contributed to Madeline's survival: her gestational age and her gender.

"Prospective studies have demonstrated that newborns delivered before 24 weeks of gestation have been completed are less likely to survive and to survive without deficits than are those delivered after a longer gestation," Muraskas wrote.

In addition, premature "girls generally have a better prognosis than boys," he wrote.

Madeline needed a breathing tube and oxygen after her birth 13 weeks early, but she avoided the serious complications that many premature babies suffer. Loyola has cared for more than 1,700 newborns weighing less than two pounds in the past two decades.

Today, Madeline is small for her age, only 4 feet 6 inches, with some eye problems and asthma, Reuters reported. But her cognitive development is normal; she maintains a 3.7 grade point average and plays the violin, Muraskas stated in NEJM.

An honor student during her time in junior high school, Madeline started high school August 25.

"Her high school entrance exams placed her in the 83rd percentile nationally," according to News-Medical.Net.

"Although many premature babies survive, Madeline's survival and the level of her development are truly miracles," Muraskas told News-Medical.Net. Muraskas provided critical care to Madeline for four months after she was born.

Recalling her delivery 15 years ago, Robyn Leslie, Madeline's mother, told the AP, "I remember hearing the softest sound, almost like a kitten. Then I realized it was Madeline crying once she was born."

Robyn Leslie had no idea what to expect because of Madeline's extremely low birth weight. "However, she has overcome a lot of barriers," she told News-Medical.Net. "Madeline has written her own story, and is doing so well both academically and socially."