Tommy's guest blog, 12/01/2017, by Richard Pitchford
Not all lives get off to the easiest starts.
60,000 babies are born prematurely every year in the UK which can lead to long term health or development problems.
Prematurity is also the leading cause of neonatal death in the UK.
For Richard Pitchford, the first three months of his daughter’s life were filled with worry after she was born 11 weeks too soon. Georgina was born determined however, and fought against the odds.
Here is Richard and Georgia’s story
From time to time it's nice to hear a story with a happy ever after. This story is about my daughter Georgia and her difficult journey in to this life.
Around 6 years ago I was based with the British Army in Germany. Life was great there, and me and my wife Suzanne, were enjoying our lives and anticipating the arrival of our first child.
All the early scans seemed normal, however, as Suzanne entered in to the third trimester it was very clear something was wrong.
Following another examination we quickly set off to hospital for some more tests.
One thing to be said of the German healthcare system is that they are simply second to none at looking after their patients. We were seen immediately by one of the doctors, who told us that Suzanne would need to stay overnight for monitoring.
She was checked every couple of hours, and the next day Suzanne was told that an emergency C Section was to be performed. At this point I was back at base at work. I'd left a message with my troops that if a call came from the hospital I was to be found and told immediately, and they did not fail me.
I got the message within a couple of minutes from an out of breath private, and minutes later I was on my way back to the hospital.
I got to there with seconds to spare, as Suzanne was taken in and I was able to be by her side as the surgeons delivered our little girl.
Georgia was born 11 weeks early and weighed 3lb 2oz. She was tiny. I was able to see her just before she was rushed to the Intensive Care Baby Unit.
While my wife recovered I spent time coming to terms with the fact that Georgia might not make it, but I knew she was a fighter and so were we.
We went to see her in her incubator. She was covered with tubes and wires and dressed in dolls clothes as normal clothes did not fit her, she was so small.
As we watched Georgia sleep she suddenly rolled to the side and on to her face setting off alarms and buzzers. Then I saw the moment, when I knew for definite that my little girl would survive. At just 2lb 9oz (initial weight loss) she pushed herself up on her arms and back on to her back!
Georgia would not give up on her life. She was born with a determined soul and would not give in to this.
For the next 3 months we lived by her side as she went through intense UV treatment and therapy to help her develop.
Then eventually the day came when we could take her home. A day so filled with joy and fear that it's hard to fight back tears just thinking about it.
Georgia's strength of character has far from diminished over the past 5 years, in fact it's probably got a bit stronger (or worse lol).
She is determined and ferociously competitive, but we wouldn't have her any other way.
After leaving the forces a few months after her birth and completing a full military career, we came back to the UK. Whilst I served in the army I'd raised money for various charities doing mostly full and half marathons. Far from a runner, more a rugby player, these were fantastic challenges.
Just prior to leaving I was told that some 15 years earlier I had broken my back in two places, leaving two of my vertebrae damaged. So now I couldn't run or march with weight anymore! This is a devastating blow to any person, with a long term outlook of using a walking stick in my mid 50s!
Last year a friend told me of Tommy's Charity and the Ride London event. I signed up there and then.
I'd started to cycle a bit by that point but knew that I would need to do much more to get my fitness ready for 100 miles in the saddle! Cycling is perfect as there is little impact but its great fitness.
I did it in just over 6 hours. This year I'll return to better my time. A goal of 5.5hrs.
So why do this? It's simple. Myself, Suzanne and especially Georgia were so very very lucky to receive the incredible care and help that we got for her in Germany. I want to ensure that everything I can do to help with research and medicine for prem and still births is done.
It was the most frightening thing that I have ever been through; god knows how it was for my incredible wife Suzanne.
Tommy's is so worthwhile and I will continue to raise money for them until the day comes when I can't turn a pedal, but hopefully that will be some time yet.
I hope to see my fellow Tommy's cyclists in 2017.
My motto, "don't give up, don't give in, Georgia didn't".
If you want to sign up and join Team Tommy’s for Ride London 2017 you can do so here. Get involved!
If you are interested in Tommy’s prematurity research you can read about our Prematurity Research Centre and preterm surveillance clinic here.
If you’ve experienced premature birth and need more support you can read our information and advice pages here.