A baby girl who was born at just 22 weeks is finally home from a Fort Worth hospital, where she has spent the first seven months of her life.
"In the first days and weeks of her life, and in the first months, it was very much touch-and-go. Survival is not a given for these babies who are born in the most fragile state of prematurity," said Dr. Jonathan Nedrelow, a neonatalogist and the medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cook Children's Medical Center.
In his 14 years there, Nedrelow has seen thousands of the tiniest babies. He remembers the day Camila Delarosa arrived at the hospital.
"Camila was an extremely premature baby. She was born very, very small," he said. "This baby had a very, very long course where we had to use all the different tools to help babies survive from a breathing standpoint. She had a need for many types of ventilators."
Camila was born June 9, 2016. Her numbers at birth put her very life in doubt: born at 22 weeks, weighing 17 ounces and her organs underdeveloped.
"I didn't want her to be born at 22 weeks. I was scared," said her mother, Eliana Delarosa. "It's not what you picture. You picture a newborn baby. I didn't know what an NICU was. I didn't know what they looked like. I didn't know how small she was going to be. She wasn't ready, and I wasn't ready."
Delarosa took pictures and video almost from her daughter's birth to document what would turn out to be an incredible will to live.
"They tell you from the beginning, 'Are you willing to go through it? She only has 10-percent chance of surviving," she recalled. "I did. And, she's here."
In the delivery room, though, Delarosa didn't know her baby girl was even present. Her daughter was so tiny, she couldn't see her in the incubator.
"I turned but couldn't find her," she said. "I didn't see anything, because she was this little."
And she was still so small when Eliana held her for the first time at 24 weeks.
"She fit in my shirt. It was like her little head was here," Delarosa demonstrated. "They like kangaroo care. It's good for them. So, I always put her in my shirt and she stayed there."
And, Delarosa stayed by her daughter's bedside. She rarely left the NICU for fear something would happen.
"You're so anxious all the time," she said. "Every call you get, you think, 'Oh, my gosh, something happened.'"
Yet through the weeks and months, Camila not only survived but thrived.
Dr. Nedrelow remembers seeing her personality change as she continued to develop.
"Very feisty, very interactive, with the staff and her mother," he said. "And it's neat to see that emergence of a personality over time. (As if saying) 'I want to interact with everyone. I complain. I cry. I'm happy.' All those things she was not able to do when she was first born."
"Every day she lived was a milestone for me," said Delarosa.
Camila "graduated" from the NICU after six months and has been in a transition unit since December. She leaves Cook Children's with a breathing tube that will stay in place until her lungs grow and she no longer needs the support.
"It's a wonderful thing to witness this transformation for these babies," said Nedrelow. "She faces some challenges still regarding her development. The good news is that she has the chance to face those challenges."
The baby born at 10 inches, 17 ounces is now 21 inches long and weighs 11 pounds.
"I feel blessed, and I'm happy. I'm very happy," said Delarosa, 23. "I just wish her dad was here."
Delarosa's husband is a Mexican national, a man Eliana met on family trips from Texas to Mexico. She fell in love with him and moved to Mexico to marry him. They wanted a family, but Delarosa suffered several miscarriages. Fertility treatment helped her become pregnant with Camila.
The pregnancy was difficult, and Delarosa was put on bed rest almost from the start. She was visiting family in Fort Worth last spring when she went into labor. She knew the early delivery would threaten her baby's life.
"The first month of her life was day by day," she said.
"Her story plays out here often, and we really celebrate and rejoice when any of the kids who are born extremely small can survive and thrive, because it's not a foregone conclusion. Many of these kids don't," said Nedrelow. "She's a wonderful example of a child who was so near death for so long but managed to survive, but many of these kids don't, unfortunately."
"It's just been really hard. You can't explain something like this to anyone," said Delarosa. "It just hits you and you have to live with it and you have to fight for your kid."
"Why some kids survive and others don't is beyond the explanation of medical science," said Nedrelow. "For all these babies born early, there's this intense raw will to live."
"As her mom, I'm very proud of her and very blessed with her," said Delarosa.