Ella Marie Smith’s Story

Tiny but perfect, born 18th January 2007 at 25 weeks, weighing 1lb 12oz

Ella Smith 1 Ella Smith 2 Ella Smith 3

My waters broke in the middle of the night, without warning, when I was 24 weeks pregnant (I initially thought I needed to do more pelvic floor exercises!). I was kept in our local hospital, University Hospital of North Durham, then a week later was transferred via ambulance to the RVI when it was realised I was 3cm dilated, and Ella’s foot was in my cervix!

After a rather traumatic delivery – we were warned Ella may not make it and that she may have lots of broken bones (luckily, she didn’t) – we finally got to see our daughter on the Special Care Baby Unit a couple of hours later. She was covered in bruises from the delivery, one leg was really swollen, she was ventilated and had lots of lines in… but she was perfect. Tiny, but perfect.

Looking back, those first few weeks were so surreal, almost like a dream – we relied on our family, friends and staff on the Unit to keep things in perspective, and took one day at a time.

We got our first cuddle with Ella when she was 5 days old and thereafter we started kangaroo care, which was just magical for us – and certainly helped with my milk production (I was expressing so much, some had to be thrown away, and it was a standard joke that I could’ve fed the whole Unit!)

Ella’s initial problem – apart from her breathing – was that her heart duct was open (this closed with a course of indometacin, so no surgery needed), she needed a couple of blood transfusions and her temperature kept fluctuating – a lot of stress, but Ella sailed through it.

Despite all these worries, every week, Ella got bigger and stronger, making more effort with her breathing, and after 15 days, started on CPAP, steadily progressing to low flow oxygen. One magical day came when Ella was 7 weeks old and we tried her on my breast – she knew just what to do, it was beautiful.

Day 49 saw us move to the ‘Blue Area’, only for two days, as we were transferred back to Durham – this was very emotional for us, as although we knew it was a step closer to taking Ella home, it felt strange and unsettling leaving the RVI, not just because we trusted the staff and their expertise, but we were leaving parents and their babies whom we’d got to know so well during this time.

Our time at Durham became positive, focussing on establishing Ella’s feeding, and getting oxygen stabilised for discharge home. On 11th April 2007, after 83 days in hospital, and 3 weeks before Ella’s due date, we took Ella home, weighing a ‘huge’ 5lb 12oz! She came home on low flow oxygen, demand breast feeding, but came off oxygen by July.

Ella is now 22 months old, runs everywhere, and is a mischevious, gorgeous girl who giggles a lot!

Ella’s family chose to fundraise for Tiny Lives

“Ella’s nana, my mum, sadly died on 1st September this year, after a very short illness. One of her wishes was to donate £5000 to the Special Care Baby Unit, as my mum and dad were so grateful for all the care Ella and we received. We’d like to dedicate this story to the best mum and nana in the world, and we’d like to thank all the staff on Ward 35 for all their wonderful care, support and knowledge. We will be eternally grateful.”