On the 11th September 2013 our son Darragh was born. After a problematic pregnancy, of which the final 5 weeks were spent in hospital, it was decided that it was safer for him to be delivered at 27 weeks.
I bled throughout my pregnancy and particularly heavily towards the end, due to a large tear in my placenta. This also caused my waters to leak, leaving little water surrounding Darragh. He was born exactly 13 weeks early via c-section at 990g.
Initially Darragh scored well on the Apgar scores. He was only ventilated for a few hours and then managed CPAP. However after 2 weeks without passing stools and struggling with his breathing, he was screened for NEC and re-vented for a few days. This was repeated again at 4 weeks just 1 day after he was transferred to HDU. He had a total of 4 blood transfusions and a hernia operation. X-rays also showed a fractured rib and poor bones and lung tissue. Eye exams showed ROP1-2 in one eye which thankfully needed no intervention. Brain scans showed initial bruising that resolved in time and he had a tiny ‘insignificant’ PDA in his heart.
The unit is a terrifying place, we were constantly on edge and nervous wrecks walking down the corridors, wondering what may have changed in our absence. The staff on the unit were amazing and so patient and understanding of our many meltdowns and we soon became familiar with medical terms and lingo. After many weeks and when Darragh finally started to become more stable, we began to open up and make friends with some of the other parents on the unit. Sharing our experiences brought us closer and we remain in regular contact with them. I found it easier to talk to parents on the unit, than with my closest friends and family. We often read stories on the board by the lockers of other babies that had spent time on the unit. This gave us a great deal of comfort.
Darragh spent a total of 6 weeks in intensive care. Progress with his lungs was extremely slow and it often felt as though he was making no progress or indeed going backwards. He was on CPAP for 6 weeks and then on the high flow machine for a further 8 weeks. He was still on high flow when he reached his due date. All the staff were brilliant with Darragh and the rest of our family. Other parents on the unit joked that their babies were ‘doing a Darragh’ if their progress had started to slow.
Darragh managed to get onto low flow on Christmas Eve – 2 weeks after his due date – and was transferred back to the Isle of Man on New Years Eve. After another 2 weeks in hospital in the Isle of Man, he was finally allowed home. He was just over 4 months old.
Since then, Darragh has had to return to hospital with viruses or increased oxygen. It has been a long and difficult road, but we are so grateful that he is with us and continuing to improve. He is a happy boy and starting to settle more. He suffers with reflux but lung tissue has grown and he will hopefully be off oxygen when he gets to 1.
Premature babies will turn your world upside down! But he was definitely worth it and we pray to God that he will continue to get better.
We have nothing but praise for the facilities and staff at Liverpool Women’s, and we are so lucky to live close to such a wonderful hospital that is always researching ways to save the lives of sick and premature babies.
Update 25th June 2015
Darragh is my pride and joy. He has been walking since he was 18 months (actual age). We worried for a long time as he didn’t crawl until he was 16 months! He also came off oxygen at 18 months and lives a happy normal life. He is slightly behind speech wise but there is every hope he will catch up. He enjoys playing with his brother, football and torturing the dog! I am back at work since he turned 1, so he goes to a childminder 3 times a week with a child that is 1 month younger than him but much more advanced and bigger!
I often look at him and cannot believe what he has been through and how we are so lucky. While his time in Liverpool seems a distant memory and can still stir up anxiety in the pit of my tummy, it now also stirs happy memories of friends, nurses, doctors and an essential part in Darragh’s life. His experience has made our family prioritise what is important in life and made us all much stronger and more grateful.
Story submitted by Brona Wilson