Many people go their whole lives without breaking a world record, but one little boy from Alabama broke a world record just by surviving birth.
On July 5, 2020, Curtis Means and his twin sister C’Aysa were born 21 weeks and one day premature. Curtis weighed less than a pound. The two were given less than a 1 percent chance to survive, and tragically C’Aysa passed away. Brian Sims, professor of pediatrics in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Division of Neonatology said, “Numbers show that babies born so young have little to no chances of survival. We typically advise for compassionate care in situations of such extremely preterm births. This allows the parents to hold their babies and cherish what little time they may have together.”
Colm Travers, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Neonatology and co-director of the Golden Week Program, said, “When taking care of severely premature babies, you have to take it step-by-step and day-by-day.” He added, “The program combines evidence-based medicine and best practices to increase a premature baby’s survival chances during their first week of life. The program has resulted in a marked reduction in mortality or severe intraventricular hemorrhage within the first week of life.”
Multiple specialists were needed to help Curtis and to teach his mother, Michelle Butler, how to care for her son. Sumita Gray, an RNICU nurse on Curtis’ team, said, “There were days when we were unsure that he would survive. He was the youngest baby anyone had worked with, but we are a level 4 RNICU and knew we had the resources and expertise to support Curtis and his mom. We were determined to see him go home.”
After 275 days, Curtis did go home.
Butler said, “Being able to finally take Curtis home and surprise my older children with their younger brother is a moment I will always remember.”
Travers contacted the Guinness Book of World Records and six months later, Curtis’s care team gathered to present a certificate that reads: “Guinness World Records – The most premature baby to survive is Curtis Zy-Keith Means (U.S.A.) who was born to Michelle Butler on 5 July 2020 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital in Alabama, U.S.A. at a gestational age of 21 weeks 1 day or 148 days, making him 132 days premature.”
In fact, Curtis is just one day more premature than the former record holder Richard Scott William Hutchinson who was born one month before Curtis.
“We do not know what all the future will hold for Curtis since there is no one else like him,” Sims said. “He started writing his own story the day he was born. That story will be read and studied by many and, hopefully, will help improve care of premature infants around the world.”
Due to medical advancement, premature babies like Curtis continue to survive. Dedicated staff who fight to help babies go home make moments of joy possible. Butler said, “It was a difficult journey, but I am grateful for the UAB team and their constant support. They took the time to educate me and made sure I knew what was happening every step of the way. They truly cared about my son and me.”
So much has to go into a story like this, and it shows the value of life. If you are considering an abortion because you believe your baby is just a clump of cells, please remember stories like Curtis’. Remember the people who do everything they can to make sure children and parents can be together. Remember the joy that Michelle Butler experienced in finally bringing her son home. Also, please remember that there are people there to help you and people who desperately want to have a child but cannot and who would love to adopt your baby.
God is the author of life, and no matter what conventional wisdom says, He still answers prayers. Each baby is made in His image and has value. With a little love, even babies who seem to have no chance can bring joy and blessings to a family.