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'Small Babies Unit' Provides Hope to Some of Tiniest, Most Critical Patients in Central Illinois

PEORIA, Ill. - It's a unit specifically designed to care for some of the tiniest patients in the country and it's in our own backyard.

26 weeks into an otherwise normal third pregnancy, Amanda Morris' water broke.

"The day she was born, at that moment, we weren't sure if she was going to survive or not." Morris says of her now 11-month-old daughter, Elowyn.

Elowyn Morris burst into the world 3-months early, weighing just 2 pounds 1 ounce.

"Just seeing her for the first time was terrifying because she was so small and hooked up to so many things." Elowyn's father, Matt Morris, says.

Elowyn spent 104 days in the Neonatal Critical Care Unit at the Children's Hospital of Illinois, a portion of that time spent in the Small Babies Unit. The unit caters to micro-preemies, babies born at less than 27 weeks gestation. But, since the unit opened just over a year ago, it's already seen babies much smaller than that.

"The cusp of viability has been like 23-24 weeks, but now we are taking as small as 22 weeks gestation and sometimes those babies are as small as a pound and a couple ounces." Registered Nurse, Megan Willmert, explains.

The Small Babies Unit is one of only a few of its kind in the country and it was born out of necessity. Walking onto the six-bed unit, you immediately notice the dim lighting and quiet environment, all of it aimed at simulating development in the womb.

"We are really starting from the very beginning to give them the very best life they can have." Willmert says.

"He was 24 weeks and 4 days," Brittney Kolvek says of her newborn son, Remington."It was, it was quite scary."

At 1 pound 1 ounce, Remington is currently the smallest baby on the unit.

"Little Remi wouldn't be here without them. So we really appreciate it." Kolvek says of the Small Babies Unit.

Small, but oh so mighty, the unit is proving that the greatest miracles come in the smallest packages.

"It really taught us to be hopeful." Matt Morris says.

Elowyn is home now, getting ready to celebrate a 1st birthday, and settling into her role as little sister. The Morris family is complete.

"She was a fighter." Amanda Morris says.

The specialized approach on the unit is working. Nurses say they're seeing more success with bottle feeding and babies are transitioning home more quickly.


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