Tulane Lakeside Hospital
October 02, 2020

Russell William Appold Jr. is a miracle baby and a fighter. This week, Russell Jr., who was born at only 22 weeks, earned the title of the youngest gestational-age baby to graduate from the Tulane Lakeside Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Russell Jr. rushed into this world at Tulane Lakeside Hospital on May 22, 2020, more than four months before his scheduled due date. He weighed just one pound. Neonatal specialists were in the birthing room to immediately offer life-saving intervention.

Babies born between 22-25 weeks gestation are on the cusp of viability and are called periviabile. Through medical advances in neonatal resuscitation and care approximately 14% of babies born at 22 weeks survive. Neonatologists at Tulane Lakeside Hospital use the neonatal outcome tool provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The tool looks at five characteristics of the baby and birth mother and provides medical information on outcomes from similar circumstances.

“I printed out the neonatal outcome estimator information and discussed it with Natasha [Russell’s mother] over the course of two days,” said Dr. Jay Goldsmith, neonatologist at Tulane Lakeside Hospital. “And she decided to go for it.”

Dr. Goldsmith was able to resuscitate baby Russell in the delivery room. That was the beginning of long journey for baby Russell and his family.

Over the course of 19 weeks, Russell Jr. fought for his life and slowly made progress. His lungs matured and his breathing improved, he gained weight, and was able to sustain a stable body temperature on his own. His parents, Natasha Williams and Russell Appold, were often at his side in the NICU helping to care for him, hold him and give skin-to-skin contact, and the provide the kind of love only a mother and father can give.

“He was so small he could fit in my hand,” Russell Appold Sr. said. “But now he’s a chunky baby.”

After an a surreal 133 days in the Tulane Lakeside NICU, Russell Jr. was able to head home with his parents. He is now weighs in at more than 7 pounds, loves to eat and has learned to suck his thumb.

“As he grows, we will tell him stories of the dedicated nurses and doctors and staff members at Tulane Lakeside Hospital who helped a 22- week-old baby get to the point of coming home,” mother Natasha wrote in a card to hospital staff members.