Sophie

I was 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant with my first baby, Sophie, when I realised late one evening that I hadn't felt her move for a while. Sensing that something was wrong, I went to the local hospital for a check. An hour later, I was having an emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic. Sophie had become tangled in the umbilical cord, wrapping it six times around her legs, and had cut off her oxygen supply. As a result, she was a very sick little person, suffering Grade II-III hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (a form of brain damage) and meconium aspiration syndrome.

Unable to breathe for herself and suffering seizures, Sophie was airlifted by the Royal Flying Doctor Service from Albany, WA to Princess Margaret Hospital. At PMH, she underwent 72 hours of full body cooling treatment, designed to slow the swelling of the brain and limit further injury. Then for another 16 days in the NICU, 7 days in the local hospital, and seven more months at home, we waited and watched. Sophie's initial prognosis was not good. The damage to her brain was widespread and severe, and doctors expected that she would have a number of developmental delays, and possibly ongoing seizures.

She started physiotherapy at just 6 weeks of age, and we quickly identified some challenges with her gross motor skills- she had weakness in one side of her body and tightness in the other, and was unable to reach up for toys or push up with her arms by the expected ages. By about six months of age, she also seemed to be falling behind in the area of communication - although she was very happy and social from an early age, she showed no signs of babbling or repeating sounds that were made to her.

But by eight months of age, with plenty of therapy, love and attention, things had changed. Though her communication was still lagging, her physical skills had caught up, and we had our first official assessment of her social skills - very advanced, as we'd thought. The life-changing moment we had with her Early Intervention team at that point was when the developmental paediatrician, after months of "wait and see", was able to tell us with absolute certainty that Sophie would walk, and that she would not be diagnosed with cerebral palsy. From then on, Sophie has gone from strength to strength.

Her assessments at 18 months of age showed her to be ahead in every area of development- including the area of communication, where she has raced off to be up to 9 months ahead of her actual age. Amazing!

Sophie turns 2 in November 2010, and is a chatty, happy, strikingly intelligent little person with a very firm mind of her own. She has made a complete recovery from her initial injury, thanks to several important factors- the actions of the midwives, nurses and doctors at and around her birth; the speed of the RFDS in transporting her; the innovative cooling treatment she received at PMH; and the many hours of different therapies and activities that we and her support team have undertaken. She's living proof that it's possible to overcome a dire prognosis for an excellent outcome, and we thank our lucky stars every day. Sophie was also breastfed from 8 weeks to 18 months - it turns out all those wretched hours of pumping in the hospital were really worth it!

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