Thirty-four years ago, Tammy Lewis was born at 24 weeks gestation, and doctors didn’t know whether she would live or die. Now, Lewis cares for ailing babies in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital where she beat the odds over three decades ago.
“I was the smallest surviving baby in the state of Texas at the time,” Lewis told CNN. “I was born at 24 weeks Normal gestation is 40 weeks … I wanted to be able to give back to the patients and families in the same situation that I was in.”
Lewis weighed only 1 lb., 4 oz. and had just a five to 10 percent chance of survival when she was born at, what is now, McLane Children’s Medical Center Baylor Scott & White in Temple, Texas, according to CNN. She spent the first three-and-a-half months of her life in the hospital as a micro-preemie, the smallest of all premature babies.
Years later, she learned that she wanted to help babies too, and ended up working with some of the same doctors and nurses who helped save her life, according to KCENT.
“Going through school, I knew this was that place I wanted to be,” she told the station. “I knew I wanted to work with children, and not just children, but NICU patients. Not many people can say that you can go work where you were born and care for the same type of patients that you were and be able to give back in that way.”
Now, she works as a respiratory therapist in the NICU and calls her career a “humbling experience.”
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She began her position at the hospital in 2009 and spends her days connecting ventilators and breathing tubes to little ones. Lewis, who has two children — aged 6 and 3 — shares her own story of survival with parents at the hospital, according to KTLA.
“You see parents get rough news and need some brightness and hope in the day. There are success stories and I am one of them,” she said, according to the site. “It doesn’t get much better than to take a one pound baby and then watch it grow up to a little human being.”
Among the many micro-preemie success stories is that of Courtney Jackson, who was born at just 23 weeks in 2001 at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. At birth, Jackson weighed just over a pound and had eight teaspoons of blood in her body. Doctors gave Jackson just a 50 percent chance of survival.
Jackson is now a healthy high school senior preparing to graduate in May.
Earlier this year, a set of micro-preemie twins, Keeley James and Kambry Lee Ewoldt, were able to leave the Iowa hospital after being born at just 22 weeks and one day gestation, according to the Associated Press.