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14th January 2016

The “miracle” baby who spent his first five months in hospital

Doctors gave Reggie a 20% chance of survival when he was born early at 23 weeks, weighing just over a kilogram.

Though Danielle Stoakes and Matt Hansom were excited about becoming parents for the first time, they were also scared. Their son had life-threatening health problems, including a serious E.coli infection. He was placed in an incubator and had tubes and wires running all over his tiny body.

As a way to cope and also to track Reggie’s progress for her family, Danielle began posting daily photos of him on her Facebook page. “To my surprise, within weeks parents of other premature babies started following the page and getting in touch,” she said. “They’d post on my wall telling me they were rooting for Reggie and saying that they found my page inspirational.”

For 150 days, until Reggie was a healthy 4kg and fit to go home, Danielle and Matt stayed by their son’s side at the UK’s Bradford Royal Infirmary Hospital, which has a special neonatal unit for premature babies ‒ snapping pictures along the whole journey. “It’s so hard to be a parent but not be able to do anything to help your child,” Danielle commented, adding that although they were far from home, “there was no way we were leaving Reggie. All we could do was stay by his side and hope he would get better”.

Premature (or preterm) babies, or those born before 37 full weeks of pregnancy, are at increased risk of illness, disability and death. Indeed, premature birth is the number one cause of newborn deaths.1 Reggie was classed as “extremely preterm” because he was born before 28 weeks. Babies born between 28 and 32 weeks are considered as “very preterm”, while those born from 32 to 37 weeks are “moderate to late preterm”.

The medtech that saved Reggie’s life

The level of care naturally depends on how unwell a baby is. For relatively “straightforward” premature births, babies generally stay in the special care baby unit until they’re stabilised. Babies like Reggie who are very unwell and require longer-term care usually stay in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Neonatal units can be extremely overwhelming for parents, but understanding all of the beeping, flashing lights, tubes and cables may offer some comfort. The host of devices to support premature babies are mostly involved in helping them breathe, receive nutrients and stay warm.2 Among other things, they include:

– Incubators and heaters;- Monitors to check the baby’s breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and the amount of oxygen, carbon dioxide and acidity in his/her blood;- Intravenous drip to give the baby fluids, nutrients and medication through a narrow tube and needle;- Feeding pumps and tubes;- Ventilators that blow air and oxygen through a tube into the baby’s nose or throat and into his/her lungs;

Danielle’s pictures capture all of these and more, giving the outside world a glimpse into the workings of a baby unit and showing people what it’s like when this place becomes your second home.

“My photos are not the type of baby pictures people normally post online, and some people may find them shocking. But the reality is not every baby is born healthy. I wanted to show the reality of caring for a prem baby,” Danielle explained. “If Reggie’s journey gives hope to one family who’s going through what Matt and I went through then I’ll be happy.”

Tommy’s, Premature birth statistics

Tommy’s, How the baby unit works