VALHALLA, Westchester County (WABC) -- Blythedale Children's Hospital marked World Prematurity Day Wednesday by celebrating a preemie twin born weighing only 1.5 pounds who is close to heading home for the first time.
Makayla Barrett, now 7 months old, was born at just 25 weeks' gestation and weighed little more than a carton of eggs prior to her admission to Blythedale in August.
Mom Josephine Johnson said she nearly lost Makayla on two separate occasions while in the neonatal intensive care unit.
"There was a time her oxygen went all the way to one," she said. "I saw the nurses run in, the doctors run in. It was a scary moment."
While her twin brother Kayden also required intensive post-NICU rehabilitation at Blythedale, he was able to go home in September.
"When he went home, it was a hope that she was going to be better," Johnson said. "I mean, if he can do it, she can do it too."
Makayla has made impressive strides, being successfully weaned off mechanical ventilation and learning to feed by mouth.
Today, Makayla weighs nearly 5 pounds and is off oxygen and breathing regular air -- a key step in recovering from lung inflammation, which is the most common complication for preterm babies.
"The nice thing about the lungs, though, is in the first year of life, the little air sacks in the lungs and the airways replicate themselves faster than any other time," Dr. Dennis Davidson said.
In addition, her parents are receiving comprehensive training in her complex care.
Officials say 10% percent of all births occur before 37 weeks, making prematurity an ongoing, worldwide problem.
"With advances in neonatal care, there's been better survival over the last few decades and also better neurologic outcomes," Dr. Davidson said.
Blythedale Children's Hospital, located in Valhalla, is a nationally recognized expert in the care of infants with severe complications of premature birth.
Preterm birth and its complications are the largest contributors to infant death in the United States and globally, and Blythedale has admitted 139 prematurely born infants in the last 22 months.
Despite their significant medical complexity, Blythedale has been able to get 91% of them home, typically for the very first time.
If all continues to go well, Makayla could be home by Christmas.
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