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'Miracle baby' born after 21 weeks celebrates her first birthday

Posted at 6:51 AM, Jun 27, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A first birthday is a milestone event for any family — but Eliora "Ellie" Schneider's first birthday might be a miracle.

The Kansas City-area girl was born after 21 weeks. The normal pregnancy is 40 weeks. Doctors told 41 Action News babies born that early have a very slim chance of surviving. 

But one year later, Ellie's mother, Robin, said you'd never know Ellie was the size of a soda can when she was born. The 1-year-old can sit up on her own, is starting to crawl, and only uses an oxygen machine when she sleeps, instead of all the time. 

"She had all the odds stacked against her," explained Dr. Barbara Carr, a neonatologist with Mednax working at Saint Luke's Hospital. "She had parents that had a very deep faith. They just continued to believe, we all kept working on and continuing to believe in her and she did well."

Part of the reason Ellie has done so well is thanks to Carr and the team at Saint Luke's. The hospital started a program three years ago designed to treat babies born before the 24-week mark. Carr said it was the first hospital in the Kansas City area to treat those extremely premature births. 

Nationally, Carr said babies born prior to the 24-week mark like Ellie have a 6 percent survival rate, but at Saint Luke's, they have a 50 percent survival rate. 

Carr said just because a baby leaves the hospital doesn't mean they'll always be perfect. 

"This is not necessarily a baby that is going to be 'normal.' Parents have to be willing to accept there will be some potential handicaps both from a physical standpoint as well as a neurodevelopment standpoint," Carr explained. 

Amazingly Ellie seems to be on a great track. She still gets check-ups at the hospital and routine physical therapy. 

Carr said the most children don't show all their developmental delays until they make it to school. So while the program's success is encouraging, she is eager to see how the babies who've left the hospital over the past three years do once they go off to the classroom. 

Over the past three years, equipment and strategy to treat these premature babies have improved. Carr said some other hospitals in the area also now treat babies born prior to 24 weeks. 

Ellie's family and friends will host a birthday party for her Sunday.