The following story and images were submitted by Zoey Andrews, Lucas’ Mummy. As someone who took having a healthy full term baby for granted, this story brings tears to my eyes every time I read it, I cannot even begin to imagine what this family went through, the love they have for this little boy grows stronger and stronger day by day. Thank you for sharing your story Zoey!
My husband Daniel and I knew from about 24 weeks that I wouldn’t be able to carry our baby full term.
I developed pre-eclampsia, very early on and we were told it was very likely our baby would have to be delivered by 34 weeks; we were warned by the obstetrician though that it was likely we wouldn’t even make it that far. Pre-eclampsia is a medical condition involving high blood pressure, and high amounts of protein in urine. Back then, Daniel and I had no idea what the next 4 months would bring us.
It was only 4 weeks later that things changed, and we were faced with the prospect of our baby being born a lot sooner than we had expected. At nearly 28 weeks a visit revealed my blood pressure was dangerously high. Despite the best efforts of the wonderful staff at Mildura Base, the decision was made the next day up transport me to either Adelaide or Melbourne for further care. Even hearing that I needed to be transferred to a bigger hospital with NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) facilities I was still in denial.
I chose Adelaide, thinking it was closer than Melbourne, and expecting to only be there for a week maximum before being sent home with my pre-eclampsia under control.
My husband and I were flown out of Mildura late Friday afternoon on a Royal Flying Doctor’s (RFDS) Flight. We arrived at the Women’s and Children’s and were faced with reality: Unless my blood pressure stabilised quickly, our baby would be born in the next few hours. We were taken on a tour of NICU to prepare us for what was to come. It was a shocking experience for both of us – seeing babies as young as 24 weeks gestation – and one we will never forget. Thankfully, my blood pressure stabilised and I spent the next week in hospital, taking numerous medications to keep my blood pressure reasonable and having steroid injections to prepare our baby in case of delivery. Daniel and I spent much of our time researching premature babies and what to expect upon delivery.
A week after being admitted and with my blood pressure under control, I was allowed to leave the hospital – providing I stayed no further than 10 minutes from the hospital. I wasn’t leaving Adelaide until the baby was born, I was told. My husband had arranged for us to stay at a friend of his, and my Mum and little sister had travelled over the Friday to visit for the weekend. I tried to enjoy the first night out of hospital in a week, but there was a nagging feeling something wasn’t right. My baby was a night owl and would keep me up until the early hours kicking.
That night he moved only once or twice and by morning I knew something was definitely wrong.
Back at the hospital Saturday morning, the day after being discharged, scans revealed the blood flow and oxygen was having trouble getting through to our baby. During the next 30 odd hours we were told numerous times that our baby would need to be delivered and late Sunday afternoon it became certain. Things were looking to grave for our baby, and he needed to be born by emergency C-Section. My mum, who was due to travel home with my sister on Sunday afternoon held off departure, and my sister, who was due to sit a VCE exam on the Monday was given an extension.
Lucas Quinn was born at 11.59pm on December 2, 2012 weighing 2.3pd, or 1.06kg. Despite research indicating he would do otherwise, as premature babies often do, our 29 weeker was born crying.
Lucas excelled from the start, scoring 8 and 9 in his APGAR test, which is fantastic for a premature baby! The APGAR measures Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration immediately after birth, with a maximum score of 2 for each category. I didn’t see Lucas until the next afternoon. Daniel spent his time visiting Lucas and reporting back to me. I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on him, laying in his humidity crib. He was so little, and had cords and IV lines connecting to him everywhere. He was connected to oxygen, but there he was – my little boy. He couldn’t have been more beautiful. My mum and little sister got to visit him that afternoon as well and were overwhelmed by how little he was and his fighting spirit.
But that evening Lucas’ fighting spirit was tested when he took a turn for the worst. He tried to breathe too hard and his lungs weren’t ready. He had developed a pneumothorax and had to be heavily sedated as it was reoccurring. It was absolutely horrible seeing him lay there practically lifeless, but even so Daniel and I tried not to forget the fact that our little miracle was defying odds by just being there!
We spent the coming weeks at the hospital from early morning to after midnight. We did Lucas’ “cares” every three hours; this was our only real chance to be “parents” during his early hospital stay. Around two weeks after Lucas was born the day I had been waiting for had come. Lucas, still requiring oxygen and on numerous different IV lines, was stable enough to be held. I enjoyed my first “Kangaroo Cuddle”, where the baby is just in a nappy and has skin to skin contact with their mum, with my little boy and was overcome with emotion and pride. The next day Daniel was able to hold his little boy for the first time.
We’d take in turns holding him each day if he was stable enough for a short time, and this soon became our favourite part of our hospital visits!
Christmas soon came and my family travelled from Werrimull to Adelaide to spend it with Daniel and I. We packed up Lucas’ presents (mostly books and clothes) and headed to the hospital to spend our first Christmas as a family. Daniel unwrapped Lucas’ presents with him while I captured the special event with photos. A friend of mine, Karen, had made beautiful decorations to decorate Lucas’ humidity crib, and he was the envy of NICU. Later, my family visited their little grandson and nephew and Lucas was spoilt with more presents. New Year’s passed and we celebrated in NICU 2 with the wonderful staff members! We decorated Lucas’ humidity crib and took in party hats. The nurses came to the party with non-alcoholic champagne! It was quite affair, and we felt the fireworks from the nearby river party vibrate through the hospital, but Daniel and I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.
The time came not long after New Year’s where Lucas “graduated” through to SCBU. He was still requiring oxygen, but needed little other assistance other than “fattening up”. He moved into an open cot quickly, with nose prongs providing oxygen. Not long after all this happened Lucas was given his first bottle, when we was about 5 or 6 weeks old. After starting off being fed when he was a newborn, only 1m over 4 hours, I was amazed that not only was he able to drink a bottle but a decent amount to! I remember asking the nurse who taught him to drink from a bottle! Daniel had to return to Mildura for work, and I remember ringing him to express my awe and disbelief! Gradually Lucas worked up to having every second feed a gavarge feed, with the others being a “suck feed”. And with the bottle thing under control it soon became a waiting game… He was a satisfactory gestation and weight to be a patient at Mildura Base, we just had to wait for him to have an eye test with a specialist and then as soon as they could organise a flight home we were Mildura bound.
Playing the waiting game once Lucas’ eye test came back clear was tortuous. After 8 weeks in Adelaide home seemed so close, but so far. My mum had taken time off work to be with me while Daniel wasn’t and we played the waiting game together. We were placed on a standby list on a Wednesday and I had my bags packed. Thursday Lucas had a horribly unstable day and coming home anytime soon looked unlikely. He was checked over by a Doctor for any major health concerns other than the obvious, and the next morning I was given the news that he was once again clear to fly as soon as a plane become available. Friday night Daniel travelled to Adelaide, and my mum returned home. Saturday morning we were told there was a possibility of a plane becoming available that day, and we’d known around lunchtime. Mid-morning I heard the words, and I couldn’t believe it. We were going home. Medstar, a child transport service, were on our way to get us. The news was met with disbelief and
a fountain of tears. After 9 weeks, we’d be in Mildura that afternoon all going to plan. The next few hours were a blur. Medstar collected us and took us to the airport. Daniel followed closely behind. At the Royal Flying Doctor’s base we were told the plane that was scheduled to fly us back was diverted. My heart sank. But then one of the pilots said his plane was free, and he’d be happy to take us. After what seemed like an eternity later, but would have only been a couple of hours maximum, we were in the sky. The RFDS Nurse must have thought I was an emotional wreck. I cried upon taking off, I constantly questioned whether Lucas was okay during the flight (he was strapped in a capsule to a stretcher facing away from me) and I full on sobbed when we touched down in Mildura.
We were home! We were back with our family and friends, we were back to a hospital that I couldn’t get lost in, and we were back. Lucas was transported to Mildura Base and was given the tasks of fattening up, getting off oxygen and having all “suck feeds”. Being a hungry little thing, he soon got the hang of suck feeds, and the fattening up followed as a result. I spent my days at hospital, and Daniel would join me after work.
It was much better having our little boy so close by.
After being back in Mildura for a week and a half, the Doctor’s made the decision to try him off oxygen, but he wasn’t ready to handle it yet, and had to be put back on. It was only a couple of days after this that Lucas’ bossy (and cheeky) personality shone through. Despite Doctor’s saying Lucas wasn’t ready to come off oxygen, Lucas had other ideas. He spent the day either pulling his oxygen prongs from his nose and chewing on them, or sitting them on top of his nose and pointing them into the air. Eventually the nurses got the hint, and suggested the Doctor’s try him off it again. With every hour that passed Daniel and I grew more hopeful that Lucas no longer needed extra oxygen. The next day Lucas had convinced the Doctors and nurses that he didn’t need any help breathing. Off came the monitors and our baby was cord free!
It was a peculiar sightseeing him for the first time with no cords attached, but we knew taking our baby home was now very close. After “rooming in” for a night to make sure I could cope without having monitors etc. to watch over Lucas, we were told by Doctors that after nearly 11 long weeks our dream was coming true.Lucas was ready to go home. On the afternoon of February 4, 2013, Lucas’ Daddy carried him through our front door. Home, Sweet, Home.
Today, Lucas is just over 9 months actual and we couldn’t be any more proud of his progress. He weighs about 8kg, is rolling and sitting unassisted. He has such a cheeky personality, but is so focused and stubborn! He has no major health concerns, but does need to see a physio to monitor his progress.
People are surprised when we say he is as old as he is. To them he is little, to us, he is just perfect.
Both Daniel and my mum Leonie were a mountain of support to me during Lucas’ hospital stay. Without either of them I wouldn’t have been able to handle everything as well as I did! My little sister Brittney was also fantastic, even in such a daunting situation! Thank-you! I’d also like to thank the amazing NICU and SCBU staff at Adelaide Women’s and Children’s – in particular Amy – and the SCBU staff at Mildura Base. To our family that visited us in Adelaide; your visits were so much appreciated and needed! And to our family, friends and colleagues who showed us so much support – thank-you also!
Some Images from my Newborn Session with Lucas in February! x