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Baby E’Layah Faith, born nearly 14 weeks premature at 10 ounces and 10 inches long, is going home. The smallest surviving baby born at Carolinas Medical Center is scheduled to be discharged on Tuesday.

After nearly 20 weeks in the hospital, parents Megan Smith and Eric Pegues will finally be able to take their baby girl home Tuesday morning — provided she passes a final check by her medical team. E’Layah Faith Pegues, born at just 26 weeks, has made steady progress since her birth on Sept. 23, 2015.

E’Layah was recently cleared to go home by her medical team, including Andrew Herman, MD, neonatologist and chief medical officer at Levine Children’s Hospital. E’Layah will face obstacles to her health — she will continue to be assisted by a feeding tube for the time being — but has made amazing progress since being born weighing less than a can of soda.

“Despite the challenges E’Layah has had, the fact remains that she is going to go home with her family. With our team’s tremendous dedication, she has beaten the odds. As we often see, our babies usually exceed our expectations and as long as the family understands that we don’t know for certain what E’Layah’s future will be, we are full of hope,” Dr. Herman said.

Mom says E’Layah is continuing to make strides.

“E’Layah now weighs 5 pounds, 7 ounces and has outgrown  most of her preemie clothes. She is a very busy little lady, always grabbing and pulling things and moving around. We are all very excited to be going home. It’s been a long journey and we are looking forward to the next chapter,” Megan said.

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The best gift that parents Megan Smith and Eric Pegues will have this year isn’t sitting under a Christmas tree or adorned with shiny ribbons or fancy packaging. It’s the greatest gift of all, wrapped in tiny blankets at Levine Children’s Hospital; their baby girl E’Layah Faith.

Born nearly 14 weeks early on Sept. 23 at Carolinas Medical Center, E’Layah weighed 10 ounces (305 grams) and measured just 10 inches long. Her road has not been easy, but she’s made steady progress over the last three months and on Dec. 29, she will celebrate her “original” due date weighing about five times as much as her original birth weight.

Andrew Herman, MD, neonatologist and chief medical officer at Levine Children’s Hospital credits baby E’Layah’s survival and growth to a “combination of talent, perseverance, and creativity.”

“Our goal since her birth was to grow her as quickly and as safely as we could,” said Dr. Herman. However, the experienced team at Levine Children’s Hospital had to come up with new ways to feed E’Layah because traditional methods would not work on such a small baby. The team developed a special combination of formula and breast milk to keep E’Layah healthy and growing. “We’ve had to fine tune our approach with E’Layah,” said Dr. Herman. “We are now feeding her a combination of protein, fat, sugar, electrolytes and vitamins that will help prevent infections, mature her intestines and help her gain weight.”

It had been a difficult pregnancy for Megan and Eric as she suffered two strokes and battled morning sickness and high blood pressure. In August, Megan’s OB/GYN determined that E’Layah was not growing. He sent her to Carolinas Medical Center for further testing and she was placed on bed rest for nearly a month. E’Layah was born via emergency C-Section when doctors noticed she was not moving.

Shortly after her birth, the medical team prepared Megan and Eric for the worst news any parent could hear – their baby girl may not survive. Despite the dire warnings, the parents’ belief in their little fighter never wavered. “We just weren’t taking it,” said Megan. “We said, we have to have faith, and that’s when we made her middle name ‘Faith,’ because we weren’t going to give up on her.”

The first two weeks were scary and challenging. E’Layah had several blood transfusions and struggled to gain weight. But slow progress was made. The family and medical team celebrated when she reached 1 pound in weight, a significant milestone.

E’Layah has nursed her way to 3 pounds and enjoys feedings with both mom and dad. The parents take turns spending their days in the hospital with E’Layah while juggling school, work and taking care of Eric’s son as well. While it may be hard to envision now, Megan believes her daughter will have an active life. “I know she will be something special, whether it’s running on the track, ballet lessons or even basketball,” Megan said.

Since the beginning of their pregnancy with E’Layah, Megan and Eric have held on to their faith and are taking things one day at a time. “We pray for her strength. E’Layah is our miracle baby girl.”

Dr. Herman and the entire team caring for E’Layah – who they affectionately call “tater tot” – describe her as one of their proudest moments and credit the parents for being so involved in her care. “It is all about families at Levine Children’s Hospital,” said Dr. Herman. “If you can bring the family together, and give them hope that they will one day all be together, then we do whatever it takes to keep that hope alive.”

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