The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tiniest tot in Indian lap
- Weighing less than a soft drink can, Rumaisa sets record
Rumaisa (right) and Hiba being held by nurses. (Reuters)

Washington, Dec. 21: When 32-year-old Mohammed Abdul Rahman married Mahajabeen Shaik, 23, in Hyderabad in January, the Indian-origin couple had no idea they would create any world record.

Mahajabeen became pregnant shortly after the wedding and travelled with her husband to his home in the Chicago suburb of Hanover Park and was under the arclights of the world media today.

The reason: one of her twins was the size of a cellphone when she was delivered in September and has created a world record as the tiniest surviving baby.

Rumaisa ' white as milk in Arabic ' was a mere 24.765 cm, or half as long as a normal baby when she was born after 25 weeks of pregnancy on September 19.

A normal pregnancy is approximately 40 weeks. Sandra Martinez, spokesperson for the Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, said the baby weighed 243.80 gm at birth. That is less than the weight of a can of soft drink in the US.

Ultrasound tests have shown that Rumaisa's head is normal and there is no bleeding in her brain, a common complication for premature babies leading to cerebral palsy. She may be released and sent home in January, according to doctors at the hospital.

'All indications are there's an excellent prognosis for a normal development,' said Dr Jonathan K. Muraskas, a specialist in newborn care. Hospital doctors said Rumaisa and her twin sister Hiba ' gift of God ' had to be delivered by caesarean operation after their mother developed severe preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure, in her 25th week of pregnancy.

The mother's ailment could have cost the twins their lives. Both girls had laser surgery to correct vision problems caused by their premature birth.

Hospital officials said that a day after the twins were born, their parents were allowed to see the children, lying in their incubators, hooked up to numerous tubes. The parents were not even allowed to touch the twins until they were two months old.

The girls still receive 'minimal' oxygen because their lungs are not yet fully developed and are being bottle-fed.

Very premature babies, as Rumaisa and Hiba are, have internal and external organs that may be perfectly formed but cannot function well for several weeks. During this period, which may run to three or four weeks or even more, they need special care in a hospital.

Rumaisa now weighs 1.19 kg. Hiba weighed 567 gm at birth and is now 2.25 kg. She may be sent home to her parents by Christmas.

The Loyola University Medical Center's department of neonatal-perinatal medicine specialises in delivering and nurturing premature babies. In the last 20 years, it has taken care of 1,700 such babies, of whom 90 per cent have survived.

The hospital holds the previous world record for the tiniest surviving baby as well. In 1989, a premature baby was born there, weighing 36.85 gm more than Rumaisa.

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