“Will you try?”: Mom recalls journey of ‘most premature baby’ at Methodist Children’s Hospital

Woman kneeling down and smiling at happy young girl

“Will you try?” asked new mom Courtney Stensrud after delivering her 21-week old baby at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio some four years ago. Babies born that early are not expected to survive, even with resuscitation and intensive care. Today that baby girl, Lyla, is now four years old and thriving, thanks to a mother’s faith and a physician’s willingness to try.

Woman holding young girl

“Resuscitating infants who are born in the 21st week of gestation is not standard practice anywhere in the world,” said Dr. Kaashif Ahmad, the neonatologist who revived Lyla at Methodist Children’s Hospital, an HCA Healthcare affiliate, in 2014. “Even for those infants born in the 22nd week of gestation, there continues to be significant disagreement regarding the best course of action due to the high mortality and substantial risks for long-term disability.”

But after Courtney asked Dr. Ahmad to try, he agreed, saying: “If you would like us to try then I’m absolutely happy to try’…knowing that there were no guarantees,” he told

Dr. Ahmad placed Lyla, then 15-ounces, under an overhead warmer to raise her body temperature and placed a breathing tube in her airway. She began to respond and immediately was taken to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Dr. Ahmad believes Lyla is the most premature surviving infant ever reported and co-authored a case report about her birth in the journal Pediatrics in 2017.  He pointed out that Lyla was one case and more research needs to be done on preterm births lower than 22 weeks. (According to research and published studies, of which HCA Healthcare-affiliate hospitals were involved in, full-term pregnancy is at least 39 weeks or later.)

“We reported this case because after this resuscitation she did well, but it may be possible that this is just an extraordinary case and that we shouldn’t expect the same from other babies,” Dr. Ahmad warned CNN in 2017. We have to learn more before we can make any conclusions.”

Courtney recently returned to Methodist Children’s Hospital, where Lyla spent 126 days, to attend its NICU reunion. It was the first time Courtney revealed Lyla’s identity while sharing their story.

Invitation to 2018 Methodist NICU Reunion

“The reason I’m doing these interviews — it’s not for me, it’s not for my daughter. It’s for that mother in antepartum who is frantically searching online — that she will have a little bit of hope and faith that she can have the same outcome,” she said to TODAY on Thanksgiving Eve 2018.

Lyla, who is in preschool, has no medical issues or disabilities, her mom said.

“Lyla not only fought and survived to make it home but is thriving today,” Dr. Ahmad continued. “Knowing her over the past four years has been an extraordinary journey and her outcome exemplifies what makes working in the neonatal intensive care so rewarding.”

Methodist Children’s Hospital, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare, is the first hospital in San Antonio, Texas to be exclusively designed for childcare.

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In 1968, HCA Healthcare was conceived by two physicians and an accomplished business leader — Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., and Jack Massey. This year, HCA Healthcare celebrates its golden anniversary and the culture of caring established by our three founders 50 years ago. To help us celebrate our 50th year, we’ll share stories here that reflect HCA Healthcare’s mission – above all else, the care and improvement of human life – and our pledge to improve life and make history for the next 50 years and beyond.

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