Alice was in a hurry to be born, and at 27+6 weeks made a breech appearance at home one evening in September 2010 before medical staff could arrive. She took a breath and mewled before ceasing and beginning to cool quickly. Thankfully the paramedics arrived very soon and cut the cord, taking her from me in her bath towel and gave her oxygen before she was resuscitated in the hospital and stabilised in A&E.
She was found a space in the Neonatal Intensive Care Area on Ward 35 where she was ventilated and given IV fluids and phototherapy. Up the corridor I was still reeling from the shock in postnatal and finally wheeled round on a bed in the early hours of the morning, over seven hours since delivery. It had taken three hours until I’d known she was stable, although by no means out of the danger zone. I was told the next few days would be critical as she was very sick.
Miraculously just 24 hours later she was strong enough to graduate to CPAP and at the end of her first week was demoted from intensive care. It was likely that because of the time elapsed before medical intervention, by pure coincidence the natural cooling of being born in a draughty bathroom had preserved much of her brain, much like the HIE cooling they sometimes try in full term babies with birth trauma. Once off CPAP at 10 days old she thrived in air for a few weeks until she began to need oxygen which she came home on, two weeks before her due date.
Our time is special care, although relatively straight-forward was quite hard emotionally. No one can ever prepare you for the shock of seeing such a small vulnerable baby, for having to walk away each night, for having the most natural thing in the world, touch, be carefully monitored in case your child couldn’t handle it. You need to find your feet as parent, but with so many traditional avenues closed off it can be hard. Luckily the staff working on the unit are fabulously supportive and the nurses, consultants and other workers are very mindful of the parents and families and their individual journeys.
Their sense of pride in each progressing baby was an added tonic to the overwhelming love you feel as a parent. When we went home on oxygen, we knew our journey as a special care baby had not ended. And now even though being off oxygen, two years down the line we are still feeling some effects of prematurity and are still receiving outstanding care from the RVI, now from the paediatric department.
Having started off in special care, it has set a high benchmark for any treatment in the future and their dedication remains very close my heart and will always be intrinsically linked to Alice’s turbulent start in life. She is now thriving, despite some problems, and the stubborn fighting streak she displayed at just hours old has never left her. She is a joy to be with and not a day goes by when I don’t think about how lucky we were to have such a special special care unit on our doorstep, to not just save her life but cherish it and let her flourish.