How the World's Most Premature Infant, Now 1 and Defying Great Odds, Became a 'Miracle Baby'

·3 min read
How the World's Most Premature Infant, Now 1 and Defying Great Odds, Became a 'Miracle Baby'

About five months pregnant on June 3, 2020, Beth Hutchinson went to her doctor thinking she might have a urinary tract infection. Instead, the first-time mom was stunned when her obstetrician said she was going into labor. Beth texted her husband Rick — who was at home in Somerset, Wisconsin, due to COVID-19 restrictions — to pack her hospital bag.

"I didn't even have a labor plan ready," Beth, 36, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I had only just got to my halfway point of my pregnancy, so it was like, 'I'm not ready for any of this.'"

At about 8:30 p.m. that night, the couple arrived at The Mother Baby Center at Children's Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis.

Because Beth was only 21 weeks pregnant, the couple was told that there was a 0% chance that their son would survive his birth.

"We were both like, 'That's just not an option,'" Beth says. "I knew he had a chance."

richard hutchinson
richard hutchinson

Kelly Morin Rick and Beth Hutchinson with their son Richard

After spending years trying to get pregnant, the couple refused to give up on their son.

"Family is family," says Rick, a 40-year-old manager of a gas station. "Nobody else is going to fight for him — if we don't fight for him, who else is going to?"

Richard Scott William Hutchinson was born at 7:15 a.m. June 5, 2020, weighing only 11.9 ounces, which is less than three-quarters of a pound.

For more on Richard Hutchinson's ground-breaking journey, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

richard hutchinson
richard hutchinson

Courtesy Elizabeth Hutchinson Richard Hutchinson in the NICU in July 2020, with ear pads to protect his hearing

Four hours after he was born, the baby was stable. Rick and Beth could finally meet their son in the NICU.

"I couldn't say anything because I was crying," Beth says. "I remember how tiny he was. He was smaller than my hand. But I was thinking, 'This little man has survived his birth. He's such a fighter, he's going to make it.' "

Richard spent six months in the hospital amid a series of health challenges, including two months on a ventilator, but he pushed through alongside his parents and was discharged on Dec. 4.

At the time, he weighed just 9 pounds, 5 ounces. Now 17.5 pounds, he still requires supplemental oxygen (though increasingly less), and he has a feeding tube (which they hope will be gone by the time he turns 2). And though premature children are often at risk for developmental delays and cerebral palsy, his doctors are optimistic about his prognosis.

richard hutchinson
richard hutchinson

Kelly Morin The Hutchinson family

"We won't know for sure until we see him grow up a little bit more, but I have very high hopes for this baby," says Dr. Stacy Kern, Richard's neonatologist at Children's Minnesota. "He's remarkable."

And he's made history. When Richard celebrated his first birthday in June, Guinness World Records named him the most premature baby to survive, as he arrived 131 days before his Oct. 13, 2020 due date.

"He's our miracle baby," Beth says. "He's just an amazing little boy."

richard hutchinson
richard hutchinson

Courtesy Elizabeth Hutchinson Richard Hutchinson with parents Rick and Beth after being moved from the NICU to the more general infant-care center in October 2020

A happy and smiley toddler, Richard loves puppies and playing peek-a-boo with his father.

"This little guy has gone through so much, I couldn't be prouder," says Rick. "He's my hero."

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In the coming months, the couple have plans to launch a nonprofit aimed at raising awareness and offering support and information for parents of premature infants.

"We just want to encourage other parents not to give up," says Beth. "It's so hard to believe how big Richard is now, knowing how tiny he was."

Those interested in supporting the family can learn more on their GoFundMe page.

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