Baby Connor was born a tiny preemie in July, weighing just 11 ounces — about the size of a human heart and lighter than a can of soda.
He went home to Connecticut this week in what doctors called a triumph of medicine and the human spirit. It was extremely rare, they said, for an infant born so small to survive. His father could hold him in the palm of his hand when he was born.
“Connor is probably one of the smallest babies to have survived in the United States,” said Dennis Davidson, chief of the infant and toddler unit at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester County, New York.
On Tuesday, when Connor was discharged to go home with his parents, Jamie and John Florio, he weighed nearly 11 pounds — about 15 times his birth weight.
Jamie Florio, 29, said doctors and nurses told her that although Connor was the smallest baby they’d ever seen, he was also the feistiest.
“I believe that’s what helped him to survive,” she said. “He was the size of a newborn kitten. Stretched out, he was only nine inches long, from head to toe. But he was a fighter.”
Davidson said Connor also has “a great social smile.”
Then he deadpanned: “Discharge was based on the condition that they send us photos of Connor as he grows up.”
Davidson said he expects Connor to thrive at home with his parents in Danbury, Connecticut.
“His parents have been unbelievably dedicated to observing the little nuances of his clinical conditions,” Davidson said, which included chronic lung disease, neurodevelopment disorder and feeding issues.
To keep their spirits up during the nine months that their son was hospitalized, the Florios bought wee costumes for Connor at Build-a-Bear to celebrate every holiday and take photos.
On Valentine’s Day, Connor was dressed up as a cupid, and on St. Patrick’s Day, he was a leprechaun. On Thanksgiving, he was a pilgrim, and on Christmas, he was an elf. On Halloween, Jamie Florio found him a miniature doctor’s uniform and a Superman costume.
In the days after Connor’s discharge Tuesday, there was little time for the Florios to snap pictures.
“We’re so happy to finally have him here, but it’s more stressful now,” said John Florio, who is about to return to his job as a middle school social studies teacher after taking a week off to celebrate Connor’s homecoming. Jamie Florio, a special-education teacher, is just now beginning her maternity leave.
“We don’t have a staff to take care of him now,” John Florio said. “It’s finally all up to us.”
Connor was delivered in an emergency C-section birth and spent five months in the newborn intensive-care unit at the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, followed by four months at Blythedale Children’s Hospital.
It was during Jamie Florio’s 25th week of pregnancy that doctors said Connor wasn’t getting enough nutrients to thrive, and she was admitted to the hospital to be monitored. Something was wrong with Florio’s placenta, and Connor hadn’t been receiving enough nutrients to grow at a normal rate. One week later, doctors decided that an urgent C-section was necessary.
“We knew it was risky because we kept hearing, ‘We’ll do everything we can,’ “ Jamie Florio recalled. “Even though (Connor) was 26 weeks along, he was the size of a 20-week fetus.”
When their tiny son was delivered, though, John Florio had a strong hunch that he would ultimately be healthy and strong.
“He came out kicking and screaming and swinging his arms,” he said. “I could see that he had some strength in him.”
Now at home, Connor will need a feeding tube for a while, but doctors say he will probably be taken off supplemental oxygen in a few weeks. Then the Florios can look forward to watching their feisty little boy reach new milestones.
“My hope in the future is that he has a normal childhood,” said John Florio. “And of course, I can’t wait to show all of his baby pictures someday to his prom date.”