by Colette Radford
It was the lowest of low points of my life. The suspected cause was a weak cervix but even an emergency stitch at 16 weeks did not save the last pregnancy – a week later I miscarried again.
I was introduced to Professor Shennan by Tony Kelly from Royal Sussex County Hospital. He said that he had a colleague running a trial that might help. This was Professor Shennan’s MAVRIC trial, investigating the effectiveness of cervical or abdominal stitches.
We went up to London, both excited and scared. This might be the start of our family, but what if it didn’t happen? Professor Shennan was very positive and very honest, which was very important to us as we had had bad experiences in the past. It felt like a turning point.
I was selected to have the high vaginal stitch and I went up to London to have the stitch when I was nine weeks pregnant. I was delighted to be pregnant but also a nervous wreck.
Just after Christmas and at 17 weeks pregnant, I was put on emergency bed rest because my cervix was starting to shorten - a sign of premature labour. The next seven weeks felt like a nightmare.
It felt like we would never get to 24 weeks.
We had been told that before 24 weeks they would only step in to try and help if the baby came out fighting for breath. If not, they would let the baby pass away. It felt like we would never get to 24 weeks.
At my next visit Professor Shennan carried out a test that showed I was highly likely to go into preterm labour and at 22 weeks and five days I was taken into hospital to stay there until I had given birth.
This was a very scary time for us. Very soon I started getting pains and no matter how hard I tried to hide it, I knew I was going into labour. My stitch was removed.
We thought we were going to get another angel
I cried and cried, as did my husband Michael. We thought we were going to get another angel soon. We thought that there was no way Hope would survive.
Four days later Hope was born. It was 23 weeks and two days. She weighed 1lb and 2oz and, crucially, was fighting for breath! So thankfully she was assisted and stabilised.
Four hours later we were allowed to see her. Michael wheeled me up to the baby unit; I was overwhelmed by the smell and all the noises when we walked into the NICU. We were shown Hope, our little fighter. We couldn’t touch her and she was under a light for jaundice.
It’s the tubes, lights, alarms and smells that never leave you.
Hope was in hospital for five months. It was not plain sailing. Her medical history can be summed up as follows; extreme prematurity, chronic lung disease, neonatal intestinal perforation (NEC), jaundice, patents ductus arteriosus (PDA).
This, however, does not tell the full story.
- It’s the mask on her face that starts to cut into her nose and septum and there is nothing they can do because she can’t breathe on her own.
- It’s the injections she had to have almost every day for blood tests.
- It’s the number of blood transfusions she had to have because she couldn’t make enough of her own red blood cells.
- It's finding out that she has to have an operation or she will die.
- It’s when the nurse, doctor or consultant takes you to one side to have chat about how she is doing and what there is left to try; or that there is nothing left to try and it is all up to Hope.
These all pale into insignificance though when you are told that you can leave NICU.
This is when you feel as though you can catch your breath and see the journey that you have come on and the amazing people that have helped you get to this stage.
Without the continual support of both Professor Shennan and Tony Kelly at the start we would never had got to this stage. There are also the amazing people at Trevor Mann Baby Unit (TMBU), who are too many name. Then there were the other parents, as we were all in the same position we were able to give each other support to get through the hardest of times and we have got a number of close friends as a result.
I was in my element - at last we had a baby to keep.
Hope eventually came home aged five months and one day weighing about 7lb. She was on oxygen and a lot of medication and I was very scared to be alone with her to start with. I soon got into the swing of life with Hope and got my confidence up taking her oxygen on my back and taking her for nice walks. I was in my element - at last we had a baby to keep. On December 31 2012 amazingly Hope was completely off oxygen.
Hope is going to be three in February 2015. She is amazing and we are so lucky. She is only on vitamins daily and Fortini [a nutritional drink] at night to help her put on weight. She has stopped all inhalers.
She counts to ten, loves books and role play. Her speech has been delayed but it’s amazing all the new words she is now coming out with. She had her first proper phone chat with daddy at work today. She is very loving and a very physical little lady.
World Prematurity Day is very important to me because it brings all families of premature babies together. We are all linked by what we have been through.