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22-week preemie is youngest ever to survive in Israel

Doctors’ miscalculation may have saved the life of Aharon, who beat overwhelming odds, is released from hospital after 5 months

Baby Aharon, in Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital (Screen capture: Channel 2)
Baby Aharon, in Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital (Screen capture: Channel 2)

Born after only 22 weeks in the womb, and weighing in at 670 grams, a baby boy released healthy and well from Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital on Tuesday is believed to be the most premature infant ever to survive in Israel. What’s more, the survival and good health of baby Aharon likely stemmed from a hospital miscalculation of his age.

When the baby was born in April, doctors told the father that there was only a small chance he would survive. “The doctors here were honest; they came and told me straight to my face,” Eli Haba told Channel 2 news (Hebrew). “They told me that he had a 20 percent chance of survival. And even if was one of the 20% and did survive, there was a 90% chance he would have disabilities.”

In fact those odds were overly optimistic; the doctors had miscalculated the gestation period and thought the baby was 23 weeks old on delivery. The odds for a baby born after 22 weeks are effectively 0%, and current policy in Israeli hospitals is not to intensively treat babies born at 22 weeks or earlier.

“It may be that if we had not been ‘mistaken,’ thinking that he was a week older, he would not be alive today,” Professor Dror Mandel, director of the Department of Neonatology in Ichilov’s Sourasky Medical Center, told Channel 2. “In medicine you also need luck sometimes, just like everything in life.”

Usually if a baby is born at 22 weeks or earlier, for instance, the hospital does not even bring a neonatal expert to the delivery room, due to the minuscule chances of survival.

Aharon’s mother, Roxanne Yun, told Channel 2, “I prayed for him to be strong, to fight. I came here and told him, ‘Be strong! Mom and Dad love you.’ He is my son, my son needs my love.”

Remarkably, baby Aharon was released from the hospital on Tuesday with a clean bill of health, though his future development will need to be monitored closely.

Unprecedented in Israel, the survival of a baby born at this stage is extremely rare globally.

A study published last year in The New England Journal Of Medicine found that 22-week-old babies did not survive without medical intervention. In 78 cases when the babies were treated, 18 survived, but only seven of them without moderate to severe disabilities.

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