Born As 1-Pound Preemie, Toddler Graduates From Lifelong Treatment

Doctors gave him a 50% survival chance but today he is a healthy 3-year-old and has now graduated from years of medical treatment.

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First responders and medical staff held a parade and ceremony to celebrate Charlie Smith’s end of treatment in Powder Springs, Georgia, on Nov. 1, a day before his third birthday.

“He wore his cap and gown and [his nurse] Geunevah handed him a certificate,” his mother, Alena Smith said.

Charlie was born at just 25 weeks gestation and had to be rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit.

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Smith and her husband Wendell’s first son, Wendell III, also was born prematurely at 31 weeks at 3 pounds, and apart from preeclampsia during her second pregnancy, and no underlying medical condition, doctors are unsure as to why they both their children were preemie babies.

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

Charlie was in the hospital for 328 days and had to undergo a tracheoscopy, due to his underdeveloped lungs, it was later removed in 2019. He had physical, occupational and speech therapy at home said Charlie’s nurse, Geunevah Lafontant from Optimum Pediatric Services.

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

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He was celebrated in a big way by Cobb County police and fire stations which 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.

Now Charlie is as active as any child aged 3, he plays baseball and wrestles with 9-year-old Wendell. “He was determined to keep up with his big brother,” Smith said. “He’s a fighter.”

Smith is now paying it forward and helping other preemie parents through her organization, Trust Your Strength where she shares about her family’s story in a bid to inspire others, she also offers self-care packages to mothers in the hospital.

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Alicia Kerns

Beautiful

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