25 weeks 5 days, 490 grams.
During what was an uneventful pregnancy I suddenly got very sick with severe PET (pre-eclampsia toxaemia) and developed HELLP syndrome, which in essence means I had high blood pressure, liver failure and my blood wasn’t clotting. As a result I was flown by Lifeflight Air Ambulance from my home in Nelson to Wellington. The following day Emma was delivered by emergency c-section due to my health rapidly deteriorating and both our lives hung in the balance.
Emma was delivered 100 days before she was due, weighing a pitiful 490 grams and her outlook was very poor indeed.
We were told we would be on an emotional roller coaster but nothing can prepare you for what lies ahead. We had no idea how long our lows would be, or how many tears we would shed over the coming months. It would have been easier if we had known Emma would live, but it would prove to be several months before she turned the corner and we could hope to bring her home.
In the early days we never knew what to expect when we came to visit her, and all I hoped for was to be told that she was “stable”. Stable was good. I liked stable. It meant nothing had got worse and we just clung onto whatever good thing she could give us.
When she was born her skin was red, just like a saveloy. We couldn’t touch her as her skin would tear like tissue paper under our touch. Her eyes remained fused for over three weeks. But to us she was perfect.
We couldn’t touch her so we just sat by her and talked to her, read to her and did her “cares”. The staff became our Wellington family as for months they were the only people we saw and spoke to. What Emma was going through was just too intense to explain to friends and family beyond a cursory summary.
Emma had numerous health issues related directly to her extreme prematurity. Initially the most serious was Chronic Lung Disease, however she suffered from severe IUGR (Inter Uterine Growth Retardation) due to my having PET, she also had an open duct in her heart, jaundice, bowel perforations, bilateral hernias, fluid retention, retinopathy of prematurity, and RSV just to name a few.
Emma endured four surgeries and underwent hundreds of medical interventions. She spent 18 weeks in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and was transferred to the Nelson SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) where she spent a further five weeks. She was discharged home at 157 days old and 3060 grams and needed a small amount of oxygen at night.
Emma is now a beautiful, happy healthy little girl. She is still small, recovering from Chronic Lung Disease, and has numerous scars from all the medical interventions she endured, but she is perfect to us.
Emma is a miracle. Few people expected her to live, let alone be so healthy and normal. The doctors and nurses of the Wellington NICU are miracle workers and any babies who are treated there are absolutely in the best of hands.