GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A 2-pound Michigan newborn dubbed "Mighty Girl" by her parents is one of the smallest babies in the world to undergo a heart procedure to open up a blocked artery caused by a congenital defect.
A week later, Alexandra Mae Van Kirk is showing signs that her heart is working as it should, and she's growing.
"She's doing fantastic," her father, Matt Van Kirk, told The Grand Rapids Press for a story published Friday.
Dr. Joseph Vettukattil, who performed the pulmonary balloon valvuloplasty at DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, has done 300 such procedures over 20 years, but the smallest patient on which he performed it was 4 pounds.
"It was very tricky," said Vettukattil, who added he has heard of only one or two other babies smaller than Alexandra who have undergone the procedure.
When Heidi Van Kirk was 22 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound showed Alexandra was small for her stage of gestation. In follow-up checks with health specialists, Alexandra slipped further down the growth track.
"They gave her [a] 35 percent chance of making it to a live birth," Heidi Van Kirk said.
Alexandra was born July 7, entering the world with a full head of hair and with a powerful cry.
"I think everyone in the operating room was pretty much overjoyed," Matt Van Kirk said. "We were not expecting a vocal birth."
Alexandra weighed 2 pounds, 3 ounces. The neonatal team diagnosed her with critical pulmonary stenosis.
If Alexandra is like most babies who undergo the procedure, she will not need any further treatment, Vettukattil said. "She's cured. As far as her heart goes, she should be fine for the rest of her life," he said.
In the neonatal intensive care unit, Alexandra remains active, kicking her legs and pulling on tubes.
"We have always referred to her as our Mighty Girl," Heidi Van Kirk said. "We call her our Mighty, Feisty Girl now."