ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A baby girl who was born weighing just 12 ounces celebrated her second birthday Tuesday with the help of Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.
Diana Peguero, the smallest graduate of the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), was born on Mother’s Day in 2020 when her mother, Jomary Tavarez, was only 22 weeks pregnant.
“It was surreal. She was tiny. She was the tiniest human being I had ever seen; I couldn’t believe that she was still alive,” said Tavarez in a 2020 interview, recalling she looked as big as a large apple.
Jomary said she gave birth to Diana after she suffered pregnancy complications when she was only 20 weeks pregnant. Diana, alongside her parents Tavarez and Federico Peguero, spent the first six months of her life in the NICU.
But she beat the near-impossible survival rate given to most micro-preemies, or babies born at 22 weeks, and was enjoying balloons and cake at her second birthday party on Tuesday.
To celebrate Diana’s big milestone, other micro-preemies from 6 months to 3-years-old attended a birthday bash thrown at Orlando Health for the 2-year-old and her family.
“I was so excited to connect with other NICU moms and parents of preemies at Diana’s party. It’s extremely rare for a 22-weeker to survive and thrive, so it’s really amazing to have conversations with parents that have been through the same thing that you have,” Tavarez said in a news release.
Health officials said many of the micro-preemie families had previously connected online via NICU support groups and the birthday event gave them the opportunity to meet in person and bond over their shared experiences.
Each of the parents who attended were asked to sign a NICU journal to be donated to the families with micro-preemies currently in the hospital’s NICU. Many guests went a step beyond that, also etching messages of hope and encouragement to those struggling with the same issues they faced.
“We had to develop new protocols just for Diana because of how tiny she was and how frail her skin was,” Thais Queliz, MD, neonatologist at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer said in a news release. “We’re now using those protocols on more mature babies. So while we did help her, Diana is actually helping other babies born after her as well.”
Orlando Health Winnie Palmer officials said it’s home to one of the only NICUs nationwide equipped with caring for the babies who are born at 22 weeks’ gestation, hoping to increase the near-impossible survival rates.
To learn more about the more than 1,400 babies cared for in the NICU unit at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer, visit its website.