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A baby who weighed less than a can of soda when she was born by Caesarean section 3 months ago is nearly ready to be released from the hospital. She is believed to be the smallest baby in the world ever to survive.

The little girl, named Rumaisa, weighed 8.6 ounces when she was delivered 19Sept04. That is 1.3 ounces smaller than the previous record holder, also born at Loyola University Medical Center in 1989. The newborn is doing so well that she is expected to be released from the hospital as early as the first week of January.

She was 9 3/4 inches long at birth, or about half as long as a full-term baby. “All indications are there’s an excellent prognosis for a normal development,” said Dr. Jonathan K. Muraskas, a specialist in newborn care at Loyola, in Maywood.

Doctors delivered Rumaisa and her twin sister when their mother was about 26 weeks pregnant. Normal gestation is 40 weeks. But the mother had developed high blood pressure that was affecting her health and Rumaisa’s. Rumaisa now weighs 2 pounds,10 ounces said. Rumaisa’s twin, named Hiba, weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces at birth, and is now about 5 pounds. The couple are from India.

Rumaisa means “white as milk” in India, while Hiba means “gift from God,” according to the hospital. Ultrasound tests have shown that Rumaisa has a normal head and there was no bleeding in the brain — a common complication for such premature babies that can raise their risk of cerebral palsy.

Loyola University Medical Center has extensive experience delivering and caring for premature babies. According to the hospital, doctors there have cared for more than 1,700 newborns weighing less than 2 pounds in the last 20 years, and its survival rate of 90 percent for 28-week gestation is among the highest in the nation.

[AP,12/20/2004, By DON BABWIN, Chicago,]