Look Who's Walking!

updated 10/24/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/24/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ANY DAY NOW, MADELINE MANN, AN IMPISH 2-YEAR-OLD from suburban Chicago, is expected to take her first steps alone. Normally that wouldn't be front-page news, but in Madeline's case it will be an historic event. At birth, Madeline weighed all of 9.9 oz.—only about two ounces more than the magazine you are now holding—which makes her the smallest newborn ever to have survived. For her parents, Jim, 41, an investment firm accountant, and Robyn, 38, a former travel manager, every milestone seems a miracle. "It is fabulous to think of her approaching us on her own two feet," says Robyn. "That will be a golden day."

Robyn, who conceived while taking fertility pills and who had a medically complicated pregnancy, suffered from a malfunctioning placenta. When she began hemorrhaging during her 26th week, doctors at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., performed an emergency cesarean. Most preemies weighing less than a pound or born before 24 weeks do not survive because they have no lung tissue. Madeline, however, who was born fully formed at 27 weeks, proved to be a fighter. As Dr. Jonathan Muraskas held her in the palm of his hand, she began squirming and let out a little mew. "She looked at me with her eyes open," Muraskas says, "and I could not ignore her."

During four months of intensive care at the hospital, Madeline survived two bouts with pneumonia and needed surgery on one eye to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels. At home she received oxygen four times a day for six weeks to augment the work of her tiny lungs. "No one ever told us she was going to make it," says Robyn. "They all said we have to wait and see."

Now 12 lbs., 10 oz. (the average 2-year-old weighs 22 to 33 lbs.), Madeline is a spunky kid who shouts "out" when she wants to be sprung from her crib. Though her mental development is normal, she will be on the small side as an adult. In the meantime, Robyn is confident that Madeline is strong enough now to survive bouts with common viruses. "Before, she was someone apart from the crowd," says Robyn. "Now she can be taken as one of the kids."

—DAVID GROGAN; GIOVANNA BREU in Chicago

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