Ten years after an Indiana girl became the third-smallest baby ever born in the U.S., she is thriving beyond her parents’ wildest dreams.
10-year-old Zoe Koz has come a long way since she was fighting for her life in the Edward Hospital Newborn Intensive Care Unit in January 2004.
Today, she is a typical pre-teen, in love with One Direction and dressing up her American Girl dolls, but when she was born, her family feared she might not even survive beyond infancy.
Zoe’s unbelievable story began when her parents, Eric and Tammy Koz, received heartbreaking news 18 weeks into Tammy’s pregnancy: their baby girl was barely growing.
The parents were quickly given a couple of options that hardly seemed promising: deliver immediately with virtually no chance of survival, or wait longer and risk the baby dying in Tammy’s womb.
According to Bob Covert, medical director of Edward’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit and a neonatologist with DuPage Neonatology Associates, Zoe’s severe underdevelopment was because of a lack of blood supply from Tammy.
Tammy suffers from lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of joints, tendons, skin and other connective tissues and organs. Because of her lupus, doctors believe that Tammy’s placenta didn’t develop properly when she was pregnant with Zoe.
Although babies are generally delivered about 37-40 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, doctors just couldn’t take a chance with Zoe for very long.
“We went in every other day to make sure there was still a heartbeat,” Tammy said. “When we got to 27 weeks, we went in for an ultrasound and the baby was still alive. They said, ‘We’ve risked this long enough.’”
Believe it or not, delivering Zoe at 27-weeks wasn’t actually the most frightening part of her birth. According to Covert, because the little girl was so far behind in development, she was still smaller than a 23-or-24-week-old at the time of delivery.
Zoe was born via Cesarean section on January 6, 2004, weighing just 10.8 ounces. Her parents said they could actually slide her father’s wedding band over her tiny bicep.
In fact, the little preemie was so tiny that her size actually created technical problems with the equipment needed to help her survive.
Feeding tubes, breathing tubes, and IVs are not made for babies that tiny, according to Covert.
“In babies that small with specialized conditions like Zoe, there are few survivors,” Covert said. “If they survive, they often have lifelong disabilities or illness.”
Even though Zoe couldn’t come home with her family until June 9, her mother said that her stay in the NICU was actually fairly uneventful because she steadily grew without any major complications.
Today, Zoe is fairly small for her age—about as tiny as a first-grader—but her only lingering health complications are that she needs to use hearing aids and wear glasses.
“She is a very normal, pint-sized, fun-loving girl who does well at school, socially and academically,” said Zoe’s pediatrician since birth Chad Olsen, of Millennium Pediatrics in Naperville. “She brightens up the office when she comes in with her sister and her family.”
While there’s no real proof that a baby’s personality has any effect on its growth and development, Covert said he thinks it played a role in Zoe’s case.
“Zoe was a very spunky baby, and there were a lot of maturity factors about her that surprised us,” he said.
The little girl also had help with her development before she was even born by receiving steroids to boost her lung maturity in the womb.
It’s no surprise that Zoe is truly a miracle baby for her parents and the caregivers at the hospital. Her parents even went on to give Zoe a baby sister, named Faith, 5, who Tammy carried to full term without any complications.
Check out how much Zoe's grown in the photo!
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