“My pregnancy was absolutely perfect. I felt fine until the beginning of week 28,” says mum-of-two Inge as she reflects on the traumatic, extremely premature birth of her daughter Emma.
After emergency tests in hospital, Inge was given the shocking news that she had a life-threatening pregnancy complication.The only way to save Inge’s life was for medics to deliver her baby immediately in theatre. Baby Emma was born 12 weeks early, weighing just 1lb 13oz and measuring less than 30cm long.
Tiny Emma was monitored hour by hour, day by day: she needed two blood transfusions and oxygen and was fed by tube. The risk of infection was an ever-present worry and doctors could give no reassurance as to how she might progress. It was, Inge says, a time of ‘total anxiety and fear’.
Being unable to care for her newborn baby in the usual way was deeply distressing for Inge: “We could touch her but not stroke her as her skin was too fragile.”
When Emma could finally come home after three months in hospital, weighing 4lbs, she was still very vulnerable. “When she came home, I couldn’t sleep. With every sound she made I wondered if she was still breathing,” Inge says.
Incredibly, Emma – now a happy, healthy eight year old - caught up in terms of size relatively quickly: “By 18 months she was at the bottom of the growth chart, but at least she was on it!” Inge says.
Inge is a passionate supporter of Action’s work, commenting: “Research into prematurity is invaluable. It is such an anxiety, such a big unknown, so the more knowledge we have the better. The more you know, the safer you feel.”
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