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‘How do you say thanks, when they saved my baby’s life?’ - Born 14 weeks early, baby Isla proves a fighter as she celebrates her first Christmas

PUBLISHED: 16:00 10 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:18 11 December 2017

Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017

Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

Archant 2017

She was born 14 weeks early and weighing less than a bag of sugar.

Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

But to see little Isla Kemp smiling now, it is difficult to imagine her difficult start to life which prevented her parents holding her until she was three weeks old.

Isla, now nearly eight months old, was born on April 16, when mother Bethany Kemp was just 26 weeks pregnant. Mrs Kemp, 27, said: “It was a perfect pregnancy up to then, but we went out to dinner on the 15th and I had a slight stomach ache, which got worse throughout the evening.”

Initially she brushed off the pains. But after calling for advice, an ambulance crew were sent out and a paramedic - who happened to be a friend of husband Simon - made the call to take the family to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

“We still didn’t really understand what was going on,” said Mr Kemp, 34.

Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

Mrs Kemp added: “We thought they were going to say it was nothing and send us home, we felt bad for wasting their time.”

But far from nothing, Mrs Kemp had suffered a placental abruption - where the placenta had come away from the womb, causing a bleed and a clot to form.

“For some women, they can go on to have a full-term pregnancy, but in my case too much had come away,” Mrs Kemp, who works in a nursery, said.

There were no other options, - Mrs Kemp had to have an emergency caesarian.

Isla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp FamilyIsla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

Mrs Kemp said: “When they wheeled me through I remember screaming ‘this isn’t right, it’s too soon’.”

She was later told from the moment medics made the decision to completing the operation was just 12 minutes. But for electrician Mr Kemp, who had to wait in a side room, the minutes passed slowly.

He said: “Suddenly, you are in this room on your own.”

He was bought photos of Isla once she was born, which looking back now he said showed how staff thought of every detail.

Bethany and Simon Kemp with their daughter Isla in the NICU. Picture: Kemp FamilyBethany and Simon Kemp with their daughter Isla in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

“When you think about it, if things had not worked out, you had seen your baby.”

Isla was rushed straight to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where she was put straight on a ventilator.

Mrs Kemp said: “When I woke up two hours later, she was gone, I practically dragged myself down the corridor to see her.”

Weighing just 1lb 12oz Isla was then placed in an incubator, where she would fight for her life.

Isla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp FamilyIsla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

Mrs Kemp said: “For the first 24 hours she went downhill, she was really, really poorly.”

Isla had chronic lung disease, seizures, bleeds on the brain, holes in her heart, and pulmonary interstitial emphysema - a collection of gases outside of the normal air passages.

“On May Bank Holiday, the doctors rang us to give the devastating news that they didn’t think she would make it through that day. Isla’s lungs were too inflamed which were crushing her heart and causing a lack of oxygen to the brain,” Mrs Kemp said.

“We were told she was the sickest baby on the unit.”

Bethany Kemp with her daughter Isla in the NICU. Picture: Kemp FamilyBethany Kemp with her daughter Isla in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

Mr and Mrs Kemp, who live in Hawthorne Avenue in Hellesdon, Norwich, were told it was a waiting game.

She had a 50pc chance of survival.

“We had to prepare ourselves to sit with her until she was going to take her last breath,” Mrs Kemp said.

But five days later, Isla proved a fighter and was able to come off the ventilator - and stayed off it for three days.

Isla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp FamilyIsla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

Over the next three months, Isla was able to leave intensive care and move through various departments in the hospital.

Finally, after nine blood transfusions, 79 days, and her parents having to leave every night, Isla was well enough to go home.

“Going up there was like a full time job, it was really strange,” Mrs Kemp said.

“The overwhelming feeling I felt was guilt for her being early and for not being there all the time. She should have been with me,” she said.

Bethany Kemp with her daughter Isla in the NICU. Picture: Kemp FamilyBethany Kemp with her daughter Isla in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

Now, although small for her age, Isla is doing well and at a recent follow up appointment no problems were found.

And although she is not even a year old yet, she has been helping others as her parents allowed the hospital to include her in research studies.

“It’s just anything to help improve the understanding,” Mrs Kemp said.

For Isla’s first Christmas, Mr and Mrs Kemp will have all the family visit - and Isla is expected to be thoroughly spoiled.

Isla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp FamilyIsla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

“I’m looking forward to making our own little traditions,” Mrs Kemp said.

And after the new year, the couple have arranged a music night to give back to the NICU.

“All throughout the nurses and doctors were incredible. They do not give up hope,” Mrs Kemp said.

“By the time we left we had made friends with all the nurses, whenever we go up there now they all say hello.”

Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

Mr Kemp added: “You can’t fault any of them, they were just brilliant, they showed a real interest.

“We thought, how come we’ve never heard about the NICU before? When we left we gave them a couple of boxes of biscuits but obviously that just didn’t seem enough.”

Tickets are sold out for the event, called Baby Rocks on February 24, but donations can still be made to NICU through the NNUH charity.

Mrs Kemp said: “I know I’m biased but I think she’s brilliant. She’s smiley, she’s fun, we go to so many classes and groups - I just love her.

“How do you say thanks, when they saved my baby’s life?”

To donate to the NICU, click here.

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