12.05.2016 Back to News

Methodist Memories: The Miracle of Thumbellina

Mr. and Mrs. Ed Jordan and their "Thumbellina," Marie Louise.

In June 1971, Mrs. Ed Jordan, a nurse coordinator at Nebraska Methodist Hospital, gave birth to twins three months prematurely. The boy weighed 1 pound, 5 ounces. He lived only two hours.

The girl, Marie Louise, weighed 1 pound, 7 ounces, and was 10 inches long. From the beginning, the parents were told their daughter's chances were "practically zero." During those first crucial months she lost weight, dropping to a dangerous 15 ounces.

"Our doctor didn't give us much hope, and it was toward the end of July before he spoke really encouragingly about her chances of survival," said Mrs. Jordan.

The nurses who cared for Marie nicknamed her "Thumbellina." Their young patient may have been tiny, but she was full of life.

After a four-month stay, Marie was healthy enough to go home. She weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces, and was 18 inches tall.

"Since she's been home, Marie has been such a happy, normal baby that I can hardly believe she's somewhat of a medical miracle," Mrs. Jordan said.

In November, the Jordans held a reception for the obstetrics staff and other friends from Methodist Hospital.

"We wanted to thank all the employees for their thoughts, prayers and actions, particularly the obstetrics staff," Mrs. Jordan said.

In December, at six months of age, Marie weighed about 10 pounds.

Local Celebrity

Marie Louise was featured in the Omaha World-Herald for the first few years of her life. The annual news stories on each birthday noted that according to hospital officials, "At the time she was the smallest baby ever to survive at Methodist Hospital."

Mrs. Jordan described her daughter at age two as "so normal she's turned into 'a tuffy tiger.'" Marie Louise weighed 21 pounds and was 30 1/2 inches tall, considered in the normal range.

At age 5, Marie Louise weighed 32 pounds and was 39 inches tall, nearly the same size as her 6-year-old sister. Mrs. Jordan said that, "Marie Louise recently had a preschool physical, and the doctor said she is developing like any other child; that she has overcome all obstacles of her birth. She'll attend kindergarten in the fall."

The 1976 World-Herald story featured a photo taken at Marie Louise's fifth birthday party with her preschool classmates, explaining that this party was "the first of two she has every year. The second will be in a few days at Methodist Hospital, with the nurses who worried and cared for Thumbellina."

Neonatal Care Today

Today, a baby born at 28 weeks gestation and very low birth weight would still require a lengthy stay in Neonatal Intensive Care, but with the help of modern medicine and the care of a team of skilled providers and staff, anticipated outcomes for Methodist’s tiniest patients have improved greatly since little Thumbellina’s birth in 1970.

The NICU at Methodist Women’s Hospital has grown rapidly since opening in 2010. More critically ill and preterm infants are treated here than any other hospital in the region. Averaging 60 admissions per month, the NICU is currently undergoing an expansion that will increase capacity to 51 private beds by the end of 2017.

Sources: NMH Pulse Beat, Published for Employees and Friends of Nebraska Methodist Hospital, Eugene C. Eppley Complex and Indian Hills Educational Center, Winter 1971; "Thumbellina Grows into 'Tuffy Tiger,'" Omaha World-Herald, May 31, 1973; "Thumbellina Has Become Tuffy," Omaha World-Herald, June 5, 1976.