After almost four months of waiting, Tamera Dixon, who weighed less than a soda can when she was born on April 25, is ready to head home. Believed to be one of the smallest babies ever born in New Jersey, the Trenton preemie has spent most of her life in an incubator.
Tamera weighed slightly more than 11 ounces and measured 10 inches when she was born after only 6 months in the womb. Now that she's 4 pounds, 8 ounces, doctors have given her the OK to go home with her parents.
She was scheduled to leave the hospital Friday, but after the excitement of a news conference, hospital officials said she'll most likely head home Saturday.
"It is a miracle, she is a miracle," her mother, Andrea Haws, said with a bright smile Friday as she held the baby girl she'd prayed for.
"From when she was born, I think everyone knew she was a fighter," she said. "She's going to be a feisty little girl."
Tamera was delivered by Caesarean section at 25 weeks — 15 weeks short of a normal gestation period. Haws had already experienced complications during her pregnancy, but when her kidneys started failing and Tamera stopped growing, doctors decided they couldn't wait any longer to deliver her.
Haws, 40, recovered, but still spent most of her time at Capital Health System's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit visiting a child who she said at one point "didn't look like a human being."
That's all changed for Tamera, who would have been about a week old on Friday had she arrived near her due date. While being fed on Thursday, the pink onesie-wearing bundle of energy wriggled in a nurse's arm and looked around the room attentively — her size the only sign of her past troubles.
Dr. Stephen Moffitt, Tamera's doctor, said he's cautiously optimistic that she'll develop normally.
"She's breathing perfectly well on her own," said Moffitt, adding that doctors gave Tamera a 10 to 15 percent chance of survival before she was born.
Seeing Tamera transform into the bright-eyed center of attention at the NICU has been very exciting, Haws said. She credits the hospital and her faith in God for helping her through the hard times.
"To see an 11 ounce-baby, you wouldn't believe what it looked like," said Haws, who moved to Trenton from Jamaica a few years ago. "It was just skin and bones. She had all those wires all over and it was very scary."
Haws, who already has two boys, ages 11 and 7, with her husband, Terry Dixon, is enrolled in a family support program at the hospital.
Christy Keppel, a family support specialist with the March of Dimes who works at Capital Health System, said it's rare for babies who are born Tamera's size to survive and go home without complications. She's been working with Haws to let her know what to expect when she brings Tamera home. As part of that program, Haws spent Thursday night at the hospital alone with her baby.
"It gives them a chance to make sure that they're fully prepared to take the baby home," Keppel said.
Haws said she's nervous because Tamera is so small, but after praying for a girl and then waiting more than a month to even hold her, she's more excited to be able to take care of her baby.
"She has overcome all her obstacles," Haws said. "I'm very excited to bring her home."