Joy as Norfolk’s youngest premature baby goes home
- Credit: Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital
They never dared believe the day would come. But five months after tiny Lilly was born weighing just over 1lb, her mummy and daddy have taken her home.
Tayla Meaner and Shane Rumbles, from Norwich, have thanked the team that saved their “22-week miracle”, the youngest ever premature baby to be treated at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).
Lilly was born four months early on December 9, weighing just 511g (1lb) and has spent months requiring treatment from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team at NNUH.
Tayla was 21 weeks’ pregnant when she was admitted to hospital and staff said the chances of survival with intervention were not high.
After being born, Lilly was found to have a heartbeat but little breathing and movement and staff acted to stabilise her before admitting her into NICU.
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She was put on a ventilator for seven weeks and fought off several life-threatening infections, gut obstruction and needed major surgery on a distended intestine.
Tayla said: “I cannot believe this day has come. We never dared hope that this could happen. I still don’t think I will believe it until Lilly is tucked up in her Moses basket at home with me and Shane.”
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She added: “We took each day as it came and watched as she continued to improve. Each improvement was a sign that she was becoming more comfortable and settled. She reacts to my voice and will open her eyes when I come in and talk to her. She gives me big beautiful smiles (even if they are wind).
“I thought I would be scared holding Lilly as she was so fragile, but from the moment she was born I needed to touch and hold her. So when the nurse suggested holding her for the first time I was far too excited to feel scared.”
The family also face restrictions due to coronavirus, meaning Tayla and Shane could not visit their daughter together, nor for very long. With only one parent allowed by her side, Tayla visited the hospital on a daily basis for two hours each day.
She said: “I found a quote that said: ‘I never knew the NICU existed until my baby could not live without it.’ This is so true. I didn’t either. I couldn’t find anything about premature babies born this early and felt very alone. I just wanted one example.
“Before Lilly’s birth, Dr Clarke had mentioned that their NICU had only ever seen one previous baby born at 22 weeks survive, a little boy born the previous year. I have since come across other cases and now want people to know if they go into labour at 22 weeks not to feel hopeless. There is always a chance.”
“I want to thank Priya – she effectively saved her life – and the whole NICU team. What they have done has been incredible. I want everyone to know just how brilliant they are.
“What we have been through is awful, but we owe all the staff at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit everything - for saving our little 22-week miracle.”
The couple were unable to hold their baby girl for a month as she was so fragile.
Dad Shane said: “It has been hard, especially because I have not been seeing Lilly. We used to talk everything through together on the way back from the NICU each day.”
For just over four months a large team of nurses and doctors have looked after Lilly round the clock to give her the care needed to help her overcome some major hurdles, including three serious infections, a bleed on her brain and having to undergo major surgery.
Among the team looking after Lilly was Dr Priya Muthukumar, service director for NICU, who praised the nursing and paediatric surgical teams for their steps to improve Lilly’s chances to give her the best chance of survival.
Dr Muthukumar said: “It is too early to predict exactly what Lilly’s long term outcome will be, as we know babies born so prematurely are at higher risk of future developmental issues. Nevertheless, we are reasonably optimistic for Lilly because her brain scans while in the neonatal unit have been reassuring and she has made very encouraging progress so far.
“That first hour is vitally important and having a senior team present for delivery meant we could make the decisions and take action immediately which makes a huge difference to both immediate and long-term outcome.
“In terms of her longer prognosis, it’s looking pretty good.”
NNUH Chief Executive Sam Higginson said: “I am absolutely delighted that Lilly has made such good progress and that she has been able to go home. These have been challenging times for Tayla and Shane and I wish them all the joy in the world.
“I also pay tribute to our extremely talented NICU team who have looked after Lilly so well over the last four months. They too must take great joy from this.”