A mother has revealed that her daughter was so gravely ill when first born that she was told ELEVEN times to say goodbye because the infant was unlikely to survive .
After her waters broke at just 25 weeks, Leanne Sawyer developed an infection, which doctors warned would likely prove fatal to her baby.
Prepared for the worst, the 29-year-old used the minutes leading up to the birth to grieve for her as-of-yet-unborn daughter Chloe.
Remarkably, little Chloe – who weighed just 1lb 15oz – pulled through and found the strength to take her first breath.
But just three weeks later, she developed an infection in her bowel, causing it to burst open.
From there, Leanne, from Manchester, said goodbye to her daughter ten more times – once before a hospital transfer that staff believed she wouldn’t survive, and nine further times in the lead up to major operations.
Now four and at school, Chloe is doing well, and her mother has even framed the consent forms she signed to allow the surgeries that saved her girl as a reminder of how far she has come.
She has also created a special book documenting Chloe’s milestones, which is now on sale so that other parents can record their own premature baby’s battles.
Leanne said: “Chloe was so little. She was like a dot. Her skin was so delicate. It was like tissue paper and you could see her veins.
“I wanted to make her a baby book that worked for her and what she went through, so it includes all the IV lines she had and when she first breathed on her own.
“These are significant points in a premature baby’s life – different to other babies.”
Mother-of-three Leanne ‘s waters broke early on 18 May 2011 and, within twenty-four hours, her temperature had sky-rocketed.
Doctors at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, Merseyside told her she had an infection, which was causing a build up of water on the lungs, as well as kidney failure.
Leanne said: “I was at death’s door. I was told the likelihood of Chloe surviving was slim because as well as her being premature, my infection would have inevitably been passed from my blood in to her.
“I was left alone to say goodbye to her. I didn’t have a lot of time to think. I just had to give birth and deal with it later.”
Leanne was induced and doctors delivered her baby.
Expecting her to be stillborn, they took her right away – but just a minute later, the tiny infant began to breathe.
Then, after her placenta came out, Leanne suddenly felt better and was moved on to an intensive care ward, where she was given antibiotics.
Chloe was kept inside an incubator, where it was hoped she would grow stronger and begin to improve, but at three weeks old, her bowel burst.
Doctors said she needed to be transferred to another hospital to repair it, but warned that she may not survive the journey due to how weak she was.
Leanne said: “She had to go to Alder Hay in Liverpool, which was 90 minutes away. Chloe was so unstable there was a chance she might not make the trip.
“I asked if I could go in the ambulance with her, but there was no room so I had to follow behind.
“I didn’t know if she would be alive at the other end so I prepared to say goodbye. I said, ‘See you in Liverpool, don’t go anywhere.’
“The nurses then gave me a paper bag containing all these bits that belonged to Chloe – including a cuff she wore around her wrist and a card that went on her incubator with her name and weight on – just in case she didn’t make it.”
At Alder Hay, surgeons removed a large section of Chloe’s infected bowel, but because she was still so unstable they couldn’t reattach it right away.
Instead, she was taken to intensive care ‘in pieces,’ as Leanne described her, with an open wound because her skin was too swollen for doctors to stitch back together.
“They’d stitched a white patch in to the muscle of the skin that would grow with her, they said,” Leanne explained.
“I had to sign a consent form before each operation she had, and the early ones all said, ‘risk of death’, ‘risk of bleeding’, ‘risk of infection’ so I said goodbye to her each time.
“It was upsetting signing all those forms so doctors could cut her up.
“Babies are meant to be perfect. You don’t bring them in to the world to be cut up.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster. I think that’s how any parent of a premature baby would describe it.
“You think you’re getting closer to taking your baby home, then they get an infection and you get further away.”
After Chloe was stable enough to have her bowel reattached, the open wound was stitched up and she was fitted with a colostomy bag.
She was then transferred to Manchester Children’s Hospital so that she was closer to home, where she could recover from the surgery and gain weight.
Eventually, in January 2012 at eight months old, she was finally allowed home.
Her mum recalled: “After Chloe was home, I framed everything we’d collected up for her, like her first dummy and a £3 vest my mum got her, which she never got to wear because she was so poorly in hospital.
“I framed it all, along with the consent forms I’d signed, to show how far she’d come.”
Chloe’s tough start to life has inspired Mrs Sawyer to make a baby book documenting her daughter’s journey, which differed vastly from that of the average newborn.
She said: “I’d had books for my boys, Alex, now eight, and Harry, now six, so I wanted one for Chloe.
“But all the milestones, ages and stages that a normal child goes through didn’t work with her.
“At three months old she wasn’t holding her head up, eating solids and rolling over. She was still lying in an incubator.
“So I thought, ‘I’ll make my own book.’
“Mine has all the standard pages you would find in a baby book like a family tree, details about their birthday and their weight. But slotted in between are pages that document their journey as a premature baby.
“There’s pages about what IV lines they had, the medication they were on, how they were fed and when they were able to breathe on their own.
“These are all significant points in a premature baby’s life that you want to document. Every little box you can tick you feel you’re closer to bringing them home.
“Since my book came out I’ve had people say it’s amazing, and asking why nothing like it was available before. I’m really excited about it.”
Leanne’s book, ‘Tiny Steps – My First Year’ – can be found online via Amazon Waterstones, and her website www.tinystepsmyfirstyear.com .
Proceeds from the book will go to premature baby charity Bliss, and Ronald McDonald House Charities, who provide free ‘home away from home’ accommodation at hospitals across the UK, enabling seriously ill children to have their families close by and maintain a degree of normal family life.