By Erin Jobes
On Independence Day of 2018, parents Tisha and AJ Calhoun were filled with joy and relief when their daughter Pearly Jo (“PJ”) let out three huge cries after being born at just 23 weeks gestation, a sign she may survive despite being born so early.
Only weighing 1.1 pounds, Pearly Jo is considered a “micro-preemie” and is the youngest surviving baby at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in McKinney, Texas.
After spending 136 days in Baylor Scott and White Medical Center, Pearly Jo finally got to go home, weighing a healthy nine pounds. She never experienced any infection or needed surgery, though she did get a brain bleed which is not uncommon for a premature baby.
The Calhouns have been trying to conceive a child for a long time, having experienced a miscarriage before becoming pregnant with Pearly Jo.
“For years after our first miscarriage I would lay my head on AJ’s shoulder every night and cry and say, ‘When will we have a baby?’” Trisha Calhoun said.
Pearly Jo was born when her mother was delivered at just 23 weeks due to a incompetent cervix.
“I just had to keep repeating to myself, my husband reassured me. We are going to leave the hospital with a live baby. I will survive labor,” Trisha Calhoun explained.
Premature babies born at 23 weeks only have a 37 percent chance of survival, and only an astonishing 15 percent leave the NICU without any serious medical problems so Pearly Jo is a miracle baby to both her parents and to the hospital.
According to NBCDFW, “On the 23-week spectrum, [Pearly Jo] is on the highest end. Hospital staff credit medical advancements, family-centered care like delayed cord clamping and skin-to-skin bonding, as well as her parent’s dedication.”
Director of Baylor McKinney’s NICU, Dr. Arpitha Chiruvolu stated, “Each and every baby has a purpose, and she definitely has a purpose, and we know she’s going to move mountains.”