Hi my name is Nicole and I have had the experience of a lifetime.  My daughter Maddison was born prem at 25 weeks and 4 days.

Well to start things off my pregnancy was going well no issues at all, but before I get to the pregnancy part my husband and I had been trying for a while and decided to take our dream holiday before we started a family.  So we put baby plans on hold and booked (and paid for) our dream holiday.  We were so excited we’d booked a 8 week trip around Europe and London, Chris (my husband) planned to work in London first and then I was to meet him over there and then have our holiday and do all the things we’d planned to do and see…and then we found out we were pregnant! So we flipped our travel plans and we were to have the holiday and then I was to fly home before 26 weeks and Chris was continue and work in London for a little while and ‘live his London dream’!

So the holiday was fantastic. I can say I was 22 weeks pregnant and walked up all the stairs of the Eiffel Tower!  Everything was going fantastic and to plan. It was the night before I was to fly home and I was asleep and for some reason dreaming about balloons and then I think I felt a POP, although I was certain it was a balloon!  But I was drenched I had no idea what to do and Chris thought I’d wet the bed!  I can remember just looking at him thinking ‘what are we going to do’?  We were in Hammersmith London; we didn’t even know the number for an Ambulance.  Chris got the number from the night man downstairs and then soon after we were on our way to hospital.

In the middle of the night we arrived at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital – and for some time our new home!  I was examined by a doctor that I can only describe as an Angel.  I was adamant that I had my flight to catch, and the poor doctor had to tell us that we weren’t going anywhere until after the baby was born.  Our world collapsed, we had no one but each other and we were stuck in London until ‘God’ knows!  I was poked and prodded and given the steroid injections just in case anything else happened, because at the moment I hadn’t gone into labour.  Today I was 24 weeks and 5 days pregnant.

After a lot of poking and prodding I managed to hold on for 5 days with extreme bed rest with bathroom privileges and even that was a stretch.  At 25 weeks and 4 days I gave birth to our daughter Maddison Jewel weighing 800 grams.  She was taken from us the moment they had her settled enough to go to the NICU.  We got to see her as they wheeled her out and was then told that they would come and get us when she was settled.  That took 4 hours, and it was the longest time I’ve ever had to wait to see anything!!  All we wanted to do was see her, touch her, talk to her and tell her everything was all right.  That Mummy and Daddy were here and wouldn’t go anywhere!!  Finally we got to see her, she was so small and there were tubes and monitors everywhere.  My heart just dropped I didn’t know what to do because “this is not meant to happen”!

Maddi is a fighter and we could see that from day 1.  She was kicking around the incubator and even when they had her in a ‘nest’ to keep her calm and still she’d have her arms and legs on the outside looking like she was sun baking and this did look especially funny when she developed jaundice and had the phototherapy lights over her.  I can remember a nurse saying “yep she’s an Aussie”!!  Maddi had several usual premmie hurdles but there was one major hurdle and that was the PDA and Chronic Lung Disease. Doctors recognised early on that this was an issue and tried 2 methods of closing it but both failed and we had to rely on surgery.  She was transferred to St Guys and Thomas’ Hospital where the procedure was to take place.  The NICU there had an amazing view, one side you could see Big Ben and Parliament House and the other side you were looking at the London Eye.  Here at this hospital we were allowed to take Maddi into theatre.  We had to leave a tiny baby just bigger than the size of your hand on an operating table the size of a fully grown adult.  That’s when it hit home, that this was her last chance.  Surgery went for 40 minutes and that was another gut wrenching time for us.  She had already endured so much, but that fighting spirit wasn’t going to let down.

Maddi spent 8 weeks in NICU, finally weaned onto CPAP after several attempts of getting her extubated, because of the Chronic Lung Disease. Doctors said that she would need oxygen for a while in some form.  Then she was graduated to HDU (High Dependency Unit) and here she was moved into a cot.  The funny reason why she was moved into a cot was (and this never happened on my watch) that when it was ‘cares’ time and a nurse was changing her nappy if by chance she needed to do a number 2 when they lifted her legs to get the nappy from under her she would squirt number 2’s out and hit the back of the incubator.  As funny as that sounds I really wouldn’t want to be the person cleaning it, but maybe that reflects in her cheeky personality now!!!  Although she was finally getting bigger she was still too small for clothes.  When she hit what would have been 32 weeks we stared to begin Breast Feeding, which was good, but what was I going to do with all that frozen milk I had in every freezer I could find.  It did take a few weeks, but as time went on she gained weight and started to feed really well.  By this time she was being weaned onto the Low Flow oxygen.

Finally Special Care, our last room before we were to take her home, well home to our flat as we still had to wait until Maddi was fit enough to fly home to Melbourne.  Maddi was fully on Low Flow now and we were just waiting for her to get fully confident feeding and gaining the weight she need for the doctors to be happy.  1 August 2005 was our release date, it almost sounds like a jail term, but that was the date we had been waiting for!!  We had so many days were Maddi would gain fantastic weight and then the next it would be gone she was like a yo-yo but she finally got there and on 1 August 2005 we walked her out of the hospital for the first time. Behind the scenes, Chris did get a job working for Warner Bros. UK Head Office as an Accountant. Our Angel doctor who was the first to see us actually took Chris in for a couple of weeks.  Her and her husband cooked and washed and ironed for him.  We had long lost cousins that took us in after I was discharged from hospital and we stayed there for a couple of weeks until we found a flat.  Then we had the landlord from heaven.  I explained to her what was happening when we took the flat and she then bought for the flat all new sheets, towels, pots and pans even utensils, we didn’t have to buy a thing.  Then there was my mum.  She flew over when Maddi was 3 weeks old and she stayed for 4 weeks.  That is something that I’ll never forget and we appreciate that so very much.  We had family back home maintaining our house and gardens and paying bills because I should have been back, I should have been working and of course Chris would have been home a few weeks after I had got home.

All in all here are Maddi’s stats:

115 days in hospital

Born at 800 grams left hospital at 3080 grams

Head Circ. 1st measured on the 28th May was 27cm and at discharge was 35cm

8 Blood Transfusions

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