An adorable ‘graduation’ was held for a pair of twins born at just 22 weeks who beat the odds – and were allowed to go home.
Babies Kimyah and DJ were given as little as a 10% chance of survival when they entered the world last October.
The siblings – the smallest nurses have ever seen – could fit in mom Kimberly Thomas’ hands.
But, miraculously, they battled through – and were allowed home after around four months in intensive care, on February 27, 2023.
Staff at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio held a ‘graduation’ for the family to celebrate the special moment.
Kimyah and DJ, now 11 months, were given gowns and mortarboards to mark the occasion.
Mom Kimberly said: “I was super excited when I found out they were able to come home.”
And nurse Becky Stuart said: “It was a huge celebration.
“During their time in the NICU [intensive care], I treated them as if they were my own children.
“I love them like I love my own girls and formed a bond with them that will stick with me forever.”
Kimberly, 25, from Bedford, Ohio, says she first knew something was wrong when she started leaking amniotic fluid – which protects the fetus during pregnancy.
She called her doctor, who found she was already in labor – and four centimeters dilated.
At just over five months pregnant, Kimberly was told her twins would have a slim chance of survival.
Once the twins were delivered, they were immediately resuscitated and intubated.
Nurses say they could fit each twin in the palm of their hands – and the smallest-size nappies were still too big for them.
Nurse Sara Perrin said: “These were the smallest babies I had ever seen, much less taken care of.
“I had to learn how to adapt to their size while caring for them. It was quite challenging.”
Kimberly was unable to hold her babies for the first month of their lives – because their skin was too fragile to touch.
But she spent every day and night with them in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they were discharged.
She said: “I would then go into the NICU just to talk to my babies. I don’t think there was one day I didn’t spend at least a few minutes with them.
“I pretty much lived in the NICU for four-and-a-half months.”
While in the NICU, DJ suffered a lung collapse and Kimyah had a small bleed on her brain – but they still managed to meet their milestones despite this.
Kimberly said: “We celebrated every milestone with them while they were in the hospital.
“We had their baby shower at three months, and we did a photoshoot to mark their due date, which was Valentine’s Day.”
And, after 138 days, the twins were allowed to go home with Kimberly and dad Damante Jackson – but they were still monitored at all times.
Kimberly said: “They needed to remain on oxygen since their lungs were so underdeveloped when they were born.
“I also needed to continue checking their blood oxygen saturation levels.”
Now, almost one year on from birth, the twins are catching up to their height and weight goals.
Although they remain on target with achieving their developmental milestones, it will still be a few years before they can tell if the twins will experience any developmental delay, the Cleveland Clinic said.
But Kimberly can now hold her children whenever she wants – and are continuing to celebrate milestones with them.
She said: “Kimyah and DJ are very active and love exploring. Thinking about everything they’ve been through, it was hard to imagine us ever getting to this point.
“It was unclear if they would be able to do anything by themselves. Now, they’re trying to do everything by themselves.
“You have to stay positive and focus on the outcome you want.
“How did they manage to get through what they did? That’s what I think to myself every day.”
Dr Firas Saker, a medical director at the clinic, added: “It’s amazing to see the twins thriving. It serves as a reminder to all of us here why we do what we do every day.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker