A couple whose adorable baby turns seven months next week told how he joined a very exclusive club of “little fighters” when he was born twelve weeks premature at 28 weeks, weighing a tiny 2lb 7oz – equal to a large bag of sugar.
Biomedical scientist Edward Rewse, 29, said his wife Louise, 30, an information manager, enjoyed a textbook pregnancy until the week before her delivery, when she developed a pounding headache.
Fearing she might have preeclampsia – a form of high blood pressure in pregnancy – she was scanned, but everything was fine, only for her to start bleeding a few days later on April 30, resulting in baby Oscar being born by emergency C-section at 9pm that night.
Speaking to mark World Prematurity Day today, Edward, of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, said: “On the Friday I got home a little bit early from work because, ironically, I wasn’t feeling very well.
“About 10 minutes later, Lou called me and said she’d just started bleeding and everything spiralled from there.”
Blue-lighted to hospital, another scan revealed Oscar was in distress and needed to be delivered forthwith.
Edward said: “His heartbeat wasn’t very strong and he was sluggish.
“So, Lou was whisked in for an emergency C-section.
“He had to be resuscitated and needed specialist care, so was transferred to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge where I work.”
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He added: “Lou was still recovering from surgery, so I went with him and slept in the parents’ room.
“He is our first child and nothing could have been more normal up until this point, so it was a massive shock for us.”
Kept in Addenbrookes in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for seven weeks – where he was given oxygen, fed through a tube and, at one point, treated for a bleed on his brain – luckily, Oscar pulled through and, after a few more weeks building his strength at his local hospital, he came home on August 3.
Eight out of 100 babies are born prematurely
Premature labour is labour that happens before the 37th week of pregnancy
Recalling how they lived on a knife edge during his time in Addenbrookes, but praising the excellent care, Edward said: “A day after he was born, Oscar suffered a bleed on the left side of his brain.
“It was the most devastating news.
“I’d spent the night in the family room, barely sleeping, and had been told to go home and get some rest.”
He added: “But my mum, who’d come over to give me a hand with the dog and to look after things, woke me up in tears and broke the news.”
Luckily, the brilliant doctors stabilised him, but the next seven weeks were an emotional rollercoaster for Oscar’s family.
One of over 600 families with a baby every year to be given free accommodation minutes from their child’s hospital bedside by the Sick Children’s Trust charity, Louise was soon transferred to Addenbrookes and when she was well enough to, she stayed with Edward on-site.
He said: “We stayed at Chestnut House, just two floors below NICU, which was a godsend, as it meant we were only moments away from Oscar.
“For the first few weeks especially, he was still incredibly ill.
“We were told several times by doctors to prepare ourselves for the fact he might not survive.”
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He added: “But he always pulled through and the nurses told us, ‘Twenty-eight weekers are always real fighters.'”
Unsure exactly what treatment was administered to stem his son’s brain bleed, Edward says “whatever it was worked.”
He continued: “There was no surgical intervention, but the left hemisphere of his brain was basically one giant bleed.”
He added: “When the bleed is to the left side of the brain, though, you can live with the damage – the body can compensate for it.
“But if both sides were affected, Oscar would be left with no quality of life.
“Very fortunately for us, it didn’t get any worse.”
The couple soon realised there was no way little Oscar was giving in.
Instead, he responded well to all his treatment and even started trying to control it.
Edward said: “He was quite feisty from the word go.”
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He added: “He would pull tubes out when he’d had enough of them and even took his own ventilator out and was breathing fine without it for a while.
“But there would be highs and lows, where he could do without something for a while and would then go downhill and need help again.
“Luckily, he’s doing really well now. He’s just started having baby rice and is drinking and eating fine.”
He added: “He seems really healthy and is a cheeky, happy baby. He’s even trying to giggle.”
Doctors have warned the couple that, despite Oscar’s remarkable progress and fighting spirit, he will have sustained some unavoidable brain damage.
Edward said: “We have been told he will more or less definitely have some kind of disability but, at the moment, even his muscle tone is the same on both sides.”
Every year, The Sick Children’s Trust gives over 600 families with a baby a place to stay minutes from their child's bedside.
Two million children require treatment from specialist hospitals far from home every year.
He added: “He’s not showing any obvious issues from either his brain bleed or his prematurity yet.
“Despite being 12 weeks younger, effectively, than his real age, he is doing really well.
“We can’t get too excited, as there’s still potential for this to change, as there could come a point when his brain tries to make a connection and he can’t do it because it’s damaged, but we will work with that if and when it happens.”
He added: “The fact his consultants say they would have expected to see something by now could be brilliant news.”
While Oscar – who now weigh 13lbs 2oz and is slightly smaller than a six-month-old baby – did not take to breastfeeding, he is fine bottle feeding and loved skin-to-skin contact in hospital, bonding completely with his parents.
Edward said: “It’s hard to believe how close we came to losing him now.”
He added: “He only cries if he’s genuinely in pain, he sleeps well and is a dream really.
“He’s such a chilled little guy.”
* To donate to the Sick Children’s Trust Christmas appeal, Home from Home,’ and keep families together in hospital during the festivities, go to www.sickchildrenstrust.org/christmas/