Bernadette Holt is celebrating her 21st birthday - a day her parents didn't dared dream she would reach after she arrived in the world four weeks too soon.
For Bernadette’s parents, Gail and Barry, their pregnancy had been an anxious one after Gail’s first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 22 weeks.
Terrified it would happen again, the couple thought that they were having their worst fears realised when Gail went into labour at 25 weeks.
‘After I reached the 22-week mark I was so relieved and started to enjoy the pregnancy. But a week later she just stopped kicking.’
Gail and Barry were given the heartbreaking news that Bernadette had a very slim chance of survival, born weighing just 1lb 9oz.
Preterm babies are at increased risk of illness and babies born at 25 weeks have a 66% chance of survival.
Bernadette was born with a valve in her heart that wasn’t opening and closing properly. She had to have open heart surgery at just a few weeks old while she was still so small that Barry could fit his wedding ring round her wrist.
Barry said that this operation was an absolute nightmare, ‘we actually lost her twice on the operating table.’
Bernadette had also suffered two collapsed lungs and contracted a serious infection whilst in hospital.
But she proved herself tougher than the statistics!
Bernadette began to make a slow recovery. When she was two months old Barry was able to cuddle her for the first time on Father’s Day, an experience he described as ‘the best present I will ever have’.
Bernadette was finally taken home, just a week before her due date.
More than 20 years later, baby Bernadette has made a full recovery and recently celebrated her 21st birthday.
Her mum Gail said;
‘Every day in hospital you just didn’t know what was around the corner - we saw babies dying that had been born at full-term. But she’s a fighter and she fought for her life. We’re so proud of her.’
Happy birthday Bernadette, from all here at Tommy’s!
If you are facing the daunting prospect of early birth, our information is here to support you every step of the way. You can take a look at all of our prematurity information and advice here or download our free app for parents of premature babies.
Reading stories of those who’ve gone through similar experiences can be comforting. You can read more stories of preterm birth here.
We know that having a premature baby can be overwhelming. If you need to talk to someone about what you’re going through, our midwives are available on our free information line 0800 0147 800 from 9 – 5, Monday – Friday.
With thanks to the ChronicleLive where this story was originally published.