A baby boy in Texas who was born the size of a Coca Cola can has celebrated his first birthday.
Leovani Vera of was born at just 27 weeks and weighed only 14.5 ounces, less than one pound.
He was so small that his father’s wedding ring fit his wrist like a bracelet, and he spent three months in the hospital gaining strength and learning to breathe on his own.
As premature births increase in the US, babies born as small as Leovani can be subject to lasting physical and mental health issues, including asthma, autism, and cerebral palsy.
Now coming in at 14 pounds and eight ounces, Leovani has just learned to crawl and celebrated his birthday with cupcakes and a trip to Chuck E Cheese.
Leovani was so small that his father’s wedding ring fit his wrist like a bracelet
Leovani Vera of Texas was born at just 27 weeks, weighing as much as a can of Coca Cola (left). He has since defied the odds and celebrated his first birthday (right)
Leovani’s growth started slowing during pregnancy, his mother, Isabel Vera, said. At his 20-week ultrasound scan, he measured five weeks behind.
In December 2022, nearly three months before Leovani’s due date, doctors realized that Ms Vera had high blood pressure, which can be a sign of the pregnancy complication preeclampsia.
The only cure for preeclampsia is giving birth, so Leovani was born at just 27 weeks.
‘I begged and begged for the doctors to do what they could,’ Ms Vers said.
Due to his small size, he spent the next 127 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where doctors made sure his health and weight progressed.
According to nonprofit March of Dimes, one in 10 babies in the US are born prematurely, before 37 weeks.
‘I barely left his side when he was born, and even at home, I would be checking the camera to make sure he was okay in the hospital,’ Leovani’s mother, Isabel, said. She now calls Leovani her miracle baby
Leovani is now hitting his milestones, including recently learning to crawl
Being born too early means that premature babies don’t have enough time for their organs to fully develop, namely their lungs and brains.
This could leave them vulnerable to lasting complications like asthma, infections, developmental disoders such as autism and ADHD, and neurological conditons like cerebral palsy.
Premature babies often also have trouble breathing and feeding on their own, so they have to stay in the hospital until they can do so.
Ms Vera, 32, said she went into survival mode when Leovani was born.
‘I barely left his side when he was born, and even at home, I would be checking the camera to make sure he was okay in the hospital,’ she said.
‘I just kept crying and I hardly stopped to even process what we were going through. When he was in the NICU I commuted there daily to visit him.’
‘There were some nights that were some nights I was there so late that I’d sleep in my car or the waiting room, I just didn’t want to leave him.’
Ms Vera was at first afraid to reveal Leovani’s weight to people over worries they wouldn’t be supportive but has since been able to meet other families on social media going through the same situation.
This made her confident that he would pull through.
‘When it finally got to his first birthday we wanted to make it as special as possible but obviously didn’t want to overwhelm him,’ she said.
‘We kept it very small and with immediate family only due to cold season. We had a lovely dinner and some cake at our home.’
Leovani also got to have a family day out at Chuck E Cheese, complete with cupcakes.
‘His favorite part was the cupcake,’ Ms Vera said. ‘I had to take some away from him because he wouldn’t stop eating it.
‘Seeing him celebrate his first birthday was like a full circle for me.’
‘Leovani is my miracle, and I am just over the moon to be able to say he’s a happy and healthy one-year-old.’