16 Hospitals Turn Away 13 Ounce Preemie, Hospital Who Saved Him Throw Epic 'Graduation'


I have a particular affinity for stories about premature babies beating the odds.

See, I was born 10 weeks premature. Back then, that was almost considered a death sentence. In fact, numerous medical professionals urged my mother to not get too used to the idea of having a baby since I probably wouldn’t make it.

Thank God that they were wrong.

Now, the Almighty is undoubtedly receiving some praises from the Potter family after the birth of their newest member.

When little Cullen Potter entered the world, he was indeed little. According to KTVK, he was born on March 14 at only 22 weeks gestation.

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He weighed in at an astonishing 13.9 ounces, a weight generally believed by the medical community to be too small to survive. Indeed, the hospital where his mother, Molli Potter, initially went into labor said he had only a 2 percent chance of survival.

On Facebook, Potter identified the hospital as Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, and said the facility “does not save babies before 24 weeks.” It might sound shocking that an organization dedicated to human health wouldn’t give the littlest humans a chance at life.

However, the worldwide medical community increasingly says that physicians shouldn’t attempt to save the tiniest premature infants. According to New Scientist, the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics stated in 2006 that infants born around 22 weeks of development — the same age as Cullen — should be allowed to die.

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“There are only anecdotal reports of babies surviving after fewer than 22 weeks in the womb,” the article stated. “At that time, babies have just a one-percent chance of survival with intensive care and are almost certain to suffer severe disability, the researchers say.”

In addition to the unlikelihood of surviving, the doctors who produced the report said that the constant pain of medical interventions (think surgery and injections) was unethical. They claimed that “treatment just prolongs the process of dying.”

Perhaps that why, according to WPMI, the Potter family had such a difficult time finding anyone who would treat Cullen. They contacted 16 hospitals in three states before they found one that would help: USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile, Alabama.

Cullen’s case wasn’t a rarity for the hospital. “(When) the referring hospital gave the family a two-percent (chance), the dad got on the phone (and) asked what our stats were, do we do 22 weekers because most hospitals don’t,” said neonatal nurse and ICU manager Renee Rogers.

“We have been doing it for a very long time. Our survival rate is 68 percent, so immediately dad had her put in an ambulance and transferred here.”

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It’s not that the hospital doesn’t acknowledge the risks. “One of the concerns is the possibility of pretty severe neurological problems later in life,” said Dr. Fabien Eyal, who treated Cullen.

Rogers added, “Even at 21 plus 6 days, we are here, and we are always going to give a chance for life.”

Cullen will get to enjoy that life thanks to them.

After five months in the hospital, Cullen got to go home. When the time came, the caregivers at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital sent him off with a graduation every bit as grand as those enjoyed by high school and college students.

They dressed him in a miniature cap and gown, and a nurse paraded him down the hall. Dr. Eyal even showed up to send the little guy off.

“I saw him from when he was first born until he went home, and the tears were just flowing down my face,” said nurse Judy Luker. “It was just awesome watching him go out that door, and I know that mom and dad were just so overwhelmed to get him home in the little cap and gown outfit. It was awesome.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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