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'Mighty' MaKenna, smallest baby born at AtlantiCare, turns 1

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GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The smallest surviving baby ever born at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s Mainland Campus celebrated her first birthday Tuesday with the doctors and nurses who cared for her during her 113-day stay last year.

“Mighty” MaKenna Spruill weighed 13 ounces and fit inside Dr. Benedict Asiegbu’s hand when she was born via Cesarean section on March 12, 2018.

Her mother, Alyssa Spruill, 30, of Atlantic City was 24 weeks along when she was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia, a rare condition characterized by high blood pressure that can be very dangerous for both mom and baby.

Doctors at AtlantiCare suggested that the best option for Spruill and baby was to give birth.

To celebrate how far MaKenna — now weighing 15 pounds — has come since that day, AtlantiCare’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) threw her and Alyssa a first birthday party.

“When you take care of these babies, you never know how they’re going to do,” said nurse Dana Beatty, who gave MaKenna her nickname. “She’s beat all the odds for her size.”

Beatty was among the crowd and brought her young friend a gift basket with toys and a onesie bearing the moniker “Mighty MaKenna.”

Spruill’s friends and family also came for the party. Alexis Hunter said she met Spruill through work, and they were both pregnant at the same time last year.

“It’s so incredible. I remember this day last year, waking up to text messages and pictures,” Hunter said. “I prayed for her.”

She said she cries often when she thinks about how MaKenna and Alyssa survived.

Asiegbu, the neonatologist who resuscitated MaKenna, said she was the smallest baby he’s ever seen. He said that in some hospitals, doctors won’t resuscitate a baby born that small, but he couldn’t not try.

“She survived at such a small age that most babies won’t survive,” Asiegbu said. “There were challenges going on from the day she was born to the day she was discharged.”

He said that Tuesday was a good day to celebrate MaKenna’s progress with the staff.

“It also gives us hope and the support to continue what we’re doing,” Asiegbu said.

Spruill said she was feeling proud of MaKenna as she celebrates her first birthday.

She said that, at home, MaKenna enjoys playing peekaboo, listening to “Baby Shark” and having the last word among her siblings.

“She shocks me every day,” Spruill said. “She shocked us in the (neonatal intensive care unit), but now every day being home with her is something new.”

To the staff, Spruill said “thank you.”

“If it weren’t for you, all of you, we wouldn’t even be here,” she said.

Spruill said they are celebrating MaKenna’s actual birthday as well as July 3, the day she was released from the NICU.

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Contact: 609-272-7251 Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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