Charity walk for premature baby from Long Stratton

Looking at nine-month-old Thomas Cooperthwaite, many would not realise that this happy little boy spent months fighting for his life in a neo-natal intensive care unit.

The plucky youngster, from Long Stratton, came into the world weighing just 2lb 4oz after his mother gave birth 26 weeks into her pregnancy.

Thomas would spend the next nine months of his life at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where he would undergo numerous trips to the operating theatre for a gastrostomy and a colostomy, which was later reversed, and numerous blood transfusions as medical teams battled to treat bowel problems and infections.

He spent three months on the hospital's neo-natal unit and a further six months on the Buxton children's ward before finally being discharged on September 6.

Thomas, who now weighs 13lb 8oz, is still fed through a tube in his stomach and will have to follow a strict diet throughout his life, but doctors have been amazed with the fight the little boy has put up.

Now, to say thank you to the teams which saved his life, his grandmother Carol Meekings, 57, from Harleston, with friend Hazel Chase, is going to complete a 20-mile sponsored walk on October 23 to raise funds for the neo-natal unit. The route starts at Pulham Market and will poignantly end at the hospital.

'We can not thank them enough,' said Mrs Meekings.

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'You hear so much criticism of the NHS, but we have not got one critical thing to say.

'We're just trying to give a little something back.'

Thomas' mother Annette Meekings, 29, said there were days when she thought she would never be able to take her son home, but the support provided by hospital staff had seen her through.

'The support is absolutely amazing. When you don't understand something they will tell you thousands of times and it will not bother them. You can phone as much as you like. They try to get you involved as much as possible because bonding can be quite difficult when you're not allowed to touch your baby,' she said.

She is now excitedly looking forward to her family's first Christmas together with partner Owen Cooperthwaite, 29, and daughters Georgina, four, and Louise, two.

'He is so content and loves his cuddles.

'He doesn't do the things that he should be doing at his age at the moment, but he is doing brilliantly,' she said.

To sponsor Carol's walk, visit www.justgiving.com/carolandhazel.