Alabama boy becomes Guinness World Record holder for most premature baby to survive

Curtis Means and his twin sister had a less than 1 percent chance of survival.

An Alabama boy nabbed a Guinness World Record as the most premature infant to survive. 

Sixteen-month-old Curtis Means and his twin C’Asya had a less-than 1% chance of survival when they were born at 19 weeks premature. C’Asya died the day after delivery, but her brother has survived against all odds. Means qualified for the record on July 5, his first birthday. 

According to The New York Post, the twins were born in Birmingham to Michelle “Chelly” Butler at UAB Hospital amid the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020. Means spent 275 days in the hospital and was allowed to go home last April. 

Butler was awarded a plaque announcing the honor and joked that her son is very active. “Poodie,” as his family calls him, is wearing his mom out. “I’m tired already,” Butler told the Post. 

Dr. Brian Sims, who oversaw Means’ delivery, said, “I’ve been doing this almost 20 years, but I’ve never seen a baby this young be as strong as he was. There was something special about Curtis.” 

Another one of his doctors marveled at the baby’s determination to live.

“The first thing that struck me when I saw Curtis was how tiny he was, how fragile his skin was. I was amazed at such a young age that he was alive and that he was responding to the treatments,” Dr. Colm Travers, co-director of the UAB Hospital Golden Week Program which focuses care on extremely preterm infants, told the legendary record-keeping program. 

“Initially, Curtis was on a lot of breathing support and medication for his heart and lungs to keep him alive. Then over the next several weeks, we were able to decrease the amount of support.”

(Adobe Stock Image)

Ultimately, doctors were able to take Means off a ventilator at three months of age, which, Travers said, “was a special moment for me.” 

The previous record-holder, Richard Hutchinson of Wisconsin, was born exactly one year before Curtis at a gestational age of 21 weeks. Before him, the record for the most premature baby to survive had been unchanged for 34 years. 

A report from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) released earlier this year noted that “racism-related stress may help explain why Black women in the United States are over 50 percent more likely to deliver a premature baby than white women.” 

The report cites Catherine Cubbin from the University of Texas at Austin who called the results “alarming.”

“The stress can be related to interpersonal interactions like feeling socially isolated, getting passed over for a promotion, or being called racist labels, and to institutional discrimination, such as living in unhealthy neighborhoods or receiving inadequate medical care,” Cubbin said.

More than 14% of Black women have a premature birth compared to only 9% of white women. Characteristics like health, education and income account for half of the disparity, and researchers believe racism-related stress only experienced by Black mothers could make up the rest. 

The PRB notes that while babies with mothers who have higher incomes are healthier than those who do not, the disparity of premature birth crosses all socioeconomic classifications. 

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