Tommy's guest blog, Tara 23/02/2107
When my husband, Jon, and I found out we were expecting in June 2014 we were beyond thrilled. We had been married six years and it had been difficult to fall pregnant. We decided not to find out what we were having but were both certain it was a little boy.
The pregnancy wasn't easy with bouts of bleeding, sickness, urinary tract infections, hip and leg pain, swelling and finally a blood clot (DVT) in my right leg. Still I made it to 26 weeks and was beginning to get excited about the baby arriving when I started to feel very unwell.
A trip to the doctors and hospital on Friday 14 November 2014 followed and pre-eclampsia was diagnosed, I was admitted while it was brought under control. By Sunday morning it was clear I was getting worse, the hospital confirmed they could not stabilise me.
My baby would have to be delivered within the next 48 hours in order to save my life. Jon and I were terrified.
On Monday 17 November 2014 my blood pressure hit 250/120 and I was rushed to the operating theatre for an emergency caesarean. The operation was complicated and a general anaesthetic administered.
At 2.21pm Ethan Hattam David Burke arrived into the world weighing the tiniest of 1lb 12ozs.
He was rushed into Special Care and put onto a ventilator for 24 hours.
Over the next two weeks Ethan went from strength to strength. He came off the ventilator and onto lower breathing support, gained weight and began taking milk through a feeding tube. Unfortunately my health deteriorated further and I was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome - a variant of pre-eclampsia - which caused my kidneys to shut down, my liver to begin to fail, my blood to breakdown and my veins to collapse.
Unlike pre-eclampsia it isn't cured by delivering the baby and many specialists and lots of medication was required to get me back to health. During these weeks I was only able to see Ethan on a couple of occasions and was not well enough to hold him until he was two weeks old.
Then began the rollercoaster that all parents of preemies know too well - a period of improvements and then a set back.
First came a chest infection meaning antibiotics and a return to the ventilator, then shortly after coming off the ventilator he choked on some vomit and stopped breathing meaning he was immediately placed back on the ventilator. More steroids and another blood transfusion helped him to regain his strength before he was taken off the ventilator again.
Then at a month old he developed a problem with his gut and his breathing worsened, he was ventilated again. The doctors suspected a condition called NEC which causes part of the gut to die and requires emergency surgery - common in preemies as their gut is immature when they are born. We were rushed to a London hospital where the surgery could be performed if needed.
Tests showed Ethan didn't have NEC but had developed blood poisoning from a serious gut infection - he was fighting for his life again. Jon and I stayed with him in London and when he finally rallied and the ventilator was removed a week later we were thrilled to be able to hold him again. We were back at Watford General in time for Christmas.
In total Ethan's stay in hospital was 89 days. We were able to bring him home 2 days before he was due, he weighed 5lbs.
He required home oxygen to help his lungs which were damaged by his prematurity and the repeated ventilations. During his hospital stay he required round the clock one-on-one care, he received five blood transfusions and had varying levels of breathing support through out.
Doctors at Watford General saved my life twice and Ethan's on four occasions - we owe them everything.
We have been lucky that Ethan has thrived in his home environment, coming off the oxygen in less than 3 months. He has had no major illnesses and has grown at a startling rate making him big for his age.
He is developing normally, in line with his corrected age (based on his due date), he sat unaided at 6 months, crawled at 11 months and walked at 15 months. He uses a combination of words and makaton signs to communicate, his favourites being milk, cake and car. He loves doing jigsaw puzzles, painting and all things train related, just like any other little boy his age.
There are no signs off any long-term problems at this stage and to look at him you would never know of his rough start.