By R.T. Watson
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An infant ranked as one of world's smallest ever born was released to her joyful parents on Friday after nearly five months in a hospital, as doctors expressed hope for the baby who began life weighing the equivalent of two cell phones.
Melinda Star Guido weighed just 9.5 ounces at birth on August 30 in Los Angeles, 16 weeks premature, which based on a University of Iowa registry made her the third-lightest baby ever born in any country. She measured 8 and three-quarter inches long.
Mother Haydee Ibarra, from the Los Angeles suburb of Granada Hills, cradled her daughter as the family appeared before reporters outside Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. The child wore a white bonnet and a jumper with dots, and had an oxygen tube under her nose.
The parents were joined by Dr. Rangasamy Ramanathan, chief of the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital, and members of the physician's team.
"In my 30 years here this is the first time this ever happened that we were able to discharge a baby that weighed less than 400 grams, or 300 grams," Ramanathan told reporters. "Don't expect miracles every day."
The doctor estimated that the cost of medical care for the infant has run between $500,000 and $700,000. He did not say how those costs would be paid.
The doctor added that the baby now weighs 4 pounds, 11 ounces and "is doing what it's supposed to do" by eating, looking around and sleeping.
Results of a brain scan on Melinda two weeks ago looked normal, and Ramanathan said his team was "cautiously optimistic about how the baby is going to do" over time.
The main concern is the baby's neurological development and whether she will have any trouble walking and talking, he said.
Ibarra and Melinda's father, Yovani Guido, said they were thrilled at being able to take their child home.
"I'm just happy she's doing well, and she's doing better than she was before. I'm happy I finally get to take her home after four and a half months being here," Ibarra said.
"I've been coming every night to feed her, put her to sleep and bond with her," she said.
The smallest surviving baby ever born is listed as Rumaisa Rahman, who in 2004 was born in Illinois weighing only 9.2 ounces, according to the University of Iowa Children's Hospital Tiniest Babies Registry.
Rumaisa is attending school and doing well, Dr. Edward Bell, who started and maintains the registry, said in an email. The second-smallest baby was born in Japan, he said.
He said that the most likely outcome for Melinda is she "will have no major problems with health or development, but she will probably remain smaller than average."
An iPhone 4S weighs 4.9 ounces, according to the Apple Inc website, so two of the devices together are heavier than Melinda was when she was born.
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis)