Beth Hutchinson stands with her son, Richard, last fall. For a time, Richard – born when his mother was just 21 weeks pregnant – was in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most premature baby to live. (Photo by Joe Winter)

Joe Winter
Special to the Catholic Herald

A very premature baby from a Somerset Catholic family who was given no chance of survival was born a year-and-a-half ago when his mother was just over 21 weeks pregnant.

Richard Hutchinson came into the world at 11 ounces when the pregnancy went half a typical length, leading his mother, Beth Hutchinson, to call him “amazingly resilient.”

As of his first birthday, baby Richard was tabbed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest known person to survive at that time in history, though another such miracle occurred for a second family last fall.

His father, Rick Hutchinson, said Richard is still defying all odds. He was 16 lbs. and growing last summer, when he developed an affinity for babbling a lot, as healthy babies do, and trying to crawl – bringing with it a renewed call from the family for assistance.

“Richard’s first time in his jumper chair thingy, he is such a natural,” Rick said recently via their GoFundMe page to help defray medical expenses.

The family attends St. Anne Parish in Somerset.

“God is so amazing,” he said. “I could not be more thankful.”

The family credits the power of prayer for the successful birth, which required winning over doctors and others in the medical team, and many continuing benchmarks along the way.

“We pray about this every day,” Beth said, and that was especially so when Richard was fighting for his life at the beginning of his battle.

“When Richard was born, they told us he had a zero-percent chance of survival, and they asked us if we wanted to hold him before he passed away, and after consulting with the neonatologist department there, they agreed to give him a chance and look,” said Rick via GoFundMe.

“I think the future looks bright … he’ll make a big mark,” said Rick.

It appears the young record-holder has already done that. Rick said that after he recovered from COVID, he wished to show his son around the NICU at Children’s Hospital in the Twin Cities and remind staff members that the family’s embodiment of hope has a winning smile.

Richard spent many weeks fighting for his life.

“Because my husband and I live almost an hour away, it was hard to be there (at the hospital) every day,” his mother said, adding that most money donated through their GoFundMe site covers out-of-pocket medical costs and travel by the couple to see their child.

They are fighting every day to make sure Richard sees another day, and are praying he keeps it up week by week, as he is their little miracle and a blessing to begin with, Beth said earlier in an interview, adding she was told by many medical professionals that she might not be able to have children.

When she had met her husband, she knew they were meant to be together, through God’s providence.

“We wanted to start a family. So I did everything to try to give us the family we wanted,” Beth said on GoFundMe.

She lost her first child soon after they were married in 2018. But other doctors said it might be possible to conceive again, although the circumstances could be trying, and she had to undergo treatments.

“But they found something in my uterus in December 2019,” Beth said, adding she was supposed to have surgery two months later. “I found out I was pregnant on Feb. 3, so the doctors canceled it.”

The couple was happy and did what the doctor ordered.

“On June 3, I wasn’t feeling good. So I made an appointment to see the doctor,” Beth said. He checked her and she was admitted to the hospital the same day, and went into labor.

They prayed that the baby would stop delivery and stay in the womb longer. The doctors said they “couldn’t do anything for him” because of his size and gestational age, Beth said, but that wasn’t an option. “We fought so hard to have him.

We told the (medical team) we wanted them to try, and we told them he is our son and said we would get a lawyer.

“They agreed to try (delivery). So here he is,” Beth said on GoFundMe.

Richard is doing well so far, but he isn’t out of the woods yet, Beth wrote last summer. “He needs us as much as we need him.”

Rick and Beth have decided to pass their joy on to others, using some of their GoFundMe donations to encourage other preemie parents.

“We are actually trying to start a nonprofit for families to give that hope and that outside resource,” Beth said, and Rick chimed in that a zero-percent survival rate can be 100-percent wrong.