A baby girl in the United Kingdom who was born 18 weeks too early just celebrated her first birthday earlier this year, demonstrating the extent to which we can now care for premature babies and the clear humanity of young babies in the womb.
Stella, who was fittingly described by one of the neonatal specialists who supported through during her long hospitalization as “a little star,” was born at 22 weeks at the Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire in June 2020.
Just months the U.K. changed neonatal units to accommodate a new framework for caring for preterm babies younger than 24 weeks, Stella’s mother found her water leaking at just 21 weeks gestation.
Nurses told her that if she could make it to 22 weeks they would be able to offer the infant care that could help her survive.
“When they told me they would be able to offer treatments if she was born at 22 weeks, we knew that is what we wanted. I am an optimistic person and always stay positive and try and see the best in all situations and had faith that she would make it,” mother Jade told the Lancashire Post.
“It gave me hope seeing how experienced and knowledgeable the neonatal staff were,” she said. “They were honest with me about the chances of survival being minimal and it all depending on how she responds to the treatment.”
Jade and husband Stuart were unable to hold their baby for a week after she was born, and say she required round-the-clock care from the medical team.
“Once I gave birth they took her straight to the neonatal unit where she was incubated and the machine was breathing for her,” Jade explained. “Doctors had to complete ultrasounds on her brain and scan her heart.”
“I couldn’t even see her until five hours after she was born. It was really tough for us, but the realism came into place that she had been born more than four months early and had to be looked after or she wouldn’t have made it.”
Stella remained at the hospital until November, when her happy parents were able to take her home. She was the Royal Preston Hospital’s youngest ever premature baby to be discharged.
“It just shows how medically advanced we are that she is here with us now and the work of the neonatal staff has been absolutely amazing,” Jade said.
Neonatal specialist Dr. Richa Gupta, who helped support Stella during her time in the hospital, described the child as “a little star.”
“We were all learning about how to care for her as we went along, as there are so few babies of 22 weeks that have been born and admitted to NICUs in the UK. Our blood result parameters and charts do not yet include 22 weeks, so we had to adjust everything to be extra cautious,” she explained.
“Everything we did was geared towards keeping her safe and minimising harm, whilst optimising her growth and development – as we do for all preterm babies, but even more so for her.”
“All of the NICU team feel privileged to be part of Stella’s incredible start to life, and we wish her a wonderful and happy first birthday,” the doctor added.
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