Parents thank the Blood Bikes for helping to save baby Caitlin

Julia Pardoe and Michael Connell with their daughter Caitlin.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Julia Pardoe and Michael Connell with their daughter Caitlin. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The parents of a 'miracle baby' who survived despite being born 17 weeks premature have thanked charity Norfolk Blood Bikes for their live-saving service.

Caitlin at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: JULIA PARDOE

Caitlin at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: JULIA PARDOE - Credit: Julia Pardoe

Julia Pardoe, 32, and Michael Connell, 36, from Swaffham, believe their daughter Caitlin would not have made her first birthday if the charity had not delivered the blood and platelets she needed for 21 blood transfusions.

Caitlin was born in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on January 7, 2016 at 23 weeks and weighed 576g (1lb).

Doctors told Mrs Pardoe she may lose her first-born child and to prepare for the worst.

She said: 'Most babies born around 23 weeks do not survive, it's up to the doctor whether to intervene.

Teaspoon comparison; Caitlin's clothes at a few months old

Teaspoon comparison; Caitlin's clothes at a few months old - Credit: Taz Ali


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'They said it would be best to let her go if she doesn't fight as it is better than making her suffer, but if she does fight she had a 15 per cent chance of survival.

'Her body was still developing when she was born, her lungs were practically not there.

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'I remember feeling lost – everything I had imagined about my future and my baby was all of a sudden nonexistent. I was told not to think too far ahead and not to get my hopes up.'

By the end of January, Caitlin's condition had declined rapidly and she was facing organ failure. Doctors decided to give her a blood transfusion which she responded to with promising results.

Caitlin with mum Julia and Blood Bikers Peter Hunt and Keith Grisedale

Caitlin with mum Julia and Blood Bikers Peter Hunt and Keith Grisedale - Credit: Taz Ali

The hospital then made a special order to Blood Bikes – officially known as SERV Norfolk – for blood and platelets for Caitlin to be delievered on a weekend.

Mrs Pardoe and Mr Connell believe without that weekend service Caitlin would have died.

After spending 23 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit in the Norwich hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, Caitlin was finally able to go home.

It was in King's Lynn that Caitlin's parents found out about Norfolk Blood Bikes. She sought them out to personally thank them for delivering the extra blood Caitlin desperately needed.

They finally met them at the Royal Norfolk Show in June last year on their first family outing together. Mrs Pardoe has since been working closely with the charity helping with fundraising campaigns.

She added: 'I am so proud of Caitlin and everything she has achieved, she is a true inspiration to fight for what you want.

'Her fight was to live, I think we could step back and look at how precious life is.'

Mr Connell said: 'Caitlin is a true inspiration and has touched many people's hearts.

'Her beautiful smile, her cheeky giggle and fighting spirit show that 23 weekers can thrive.

'It's been an emotional journey with a fantastic outcome.'

Norfolk Blood Bikes:

Officially known as Serv Norfolk, the Blood Bikes are 70 volunteers who deliver vital medical supplies to hospitals in Norfolk every day of the year.

Norfolk Blood Bikes was founded in 2011 and is run by volunteers.

They distribute blood, vaccines, instruments and donated breast milk to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N).

Dr David Booth, consultant neonatologist at the N&N, said: 'SERV Norfolk Blood Bikes provide a fantastic service, delivering blood and associated products to hospitals across the county.

'These volunteers give up their time at short notice, regardless of the time of day, and we would like to thank them for the positive impact their efforts have.'

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