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Growing up in regional Queensland, Jonathon Heeley was better known as the ‘Coke can kid’.
When he has born 12 weeks premature at Brisbane’s Mater Mothers’ Hospital in 1992, Jonathon was Queensland’s smallest baby, weighing only slightly more than a can of Coke at 374g.
As he approaches his 30th birthday next month (3 July), the one-time Australian Guinness Book of Records titleholder for the smallest premature baby survivor, remains Mater’s smallest surviving baby.
Given a five per cent chance of survival at birth, Jonathon remained in hospital for five months after he was born, with his mother Gail travelling from Maryborough to see him every few days.
His first bath was in a kidney dish.
“I feel so lucky to live every day,” Jonathon said. “It’s so surreal and sometimes scary to think back on how small and fragile I was.
“I’ve had quite a normal experience growing up without any health issues. I would hope to say my birth has paved the way for what doctors can do now to save other premature babies.”
Mater Mothers’ Hospital Director of Neonatology Dr Pita Birch said Jonathon was born at 28 weeks gestation with restricted growth in the womb.
“We have come so far in the past 30 years with the care and treatment we can provide to premature babies and their mums,” Dr Birch said.
“We now regularly delay cord clamping for a minute after premature births to improve survival rates, use improved ventilation rather than intubating pre-term babies and use intravenous nutrition treatments that reduce gastrointestinal complications.
“Importantly, the use of surfactant, a naturally produced substance lacking in preterm infants, makes it easier for premature babies to breathe.”
Jonathon's mother Gail, said giving birth to her only child was an emotional rollercoaster.
“On the discharge paper, I remember reading ‘future unknown’,” Gail said.
“Mater Neonatologist Professor David Tudehope, who has retired, told me there were only five babies born in the world born the same size as Jonathon that had survived, and there was no reason he couldn’t be another one.
“I grabbed onto that – it gave me hope.”
The once pint-sized Jonathon is thriving, his passion for dancing leading him to opening and operating his own school, Hervey Bay Dance School, which he is currently expanding.
He also opened Regional Queensland’s first Performing Arts High School and is working as a senior theatre technician at the Brolga Theatre in Maryborough.
A proud homeowner, Jonathon leads a healthy, happy life in Hervey Bay with this girlfriend Tegan Baker, and a Pomeranian dog called Bella.
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