3-year-old born a 1-pound preemie graduates from lifelong treatment

By NICOLE PELLETIERE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A toddler who was born a preemie at just 1-pound has graduated from years of medical treatment.

To celebrate Charlie Smith’s end of care, first responders and medical staff held a parade and ceremony in Powder Springs, Georgia, on Nov. 1 — one day before his third birthday.

 “He wore his cap and gown and [his nurse] Geunevah handed him a certificate,” his mother, Alena Smith, told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

Charlie was born at 25 weeks gestation. Doctors gave him a 50% chance for survival and rushed him to the neonatal intensive care unit.

Smith and her husband Wendell’s first son, Wendell II, was also born prematurely at 31 weeks at 3 pounds. Smith said besides having preeclampsia during her second pregnancy, she’s had no serious health conditions and doctors are unsure as to why the boys arrived so early.

“It was scary,” Smith said of Charlie’s birth. “Especially since he was much smaller than his brother.”

Charlie stayed in the hospital for 328 days.

Because of his underdeveloped lungs, Charlie had a tracheoscopy, which was removed in 2019. He also received therapy at home, including physical, occupational and speech, Charlie’s nurse, Geunevah Lafontant from Optimum Pediatric Services, told GMA.

“This year, he’s considered no longer medically fragile. He met all of his milestones and no longer required tracheotomy or gastronomy,” Lafontant said.

To salute his milestones, Cobb County police and fire stations held a curbside celebration for Charlie. The sweet moment was captured on video as first responders’ vehicles drove by.

“It was a bittersweet moment… I have to say goodbye to him, but it was also a good reason to say goodbye,” Geunevah said.

Today, Charlie is an active 3-year-old who enjoys playing baseball and wrestling with 9-year-old Wendell.

“He was determined to keep up with his big brother,” Smith said. “He’s a fighter.”

Smith now supports other preemie parents through her organization, Trust Your Strength. She shares her family’s story to encourage others, and offers self-care packages to moms in the hospital.

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