Miracle baby leaves hospital after being born at 23 weeks

Baby Millie Bushell is now at home with her parents following a nearly 15 week stay in hospital after being born at just 23 weeks – 17 weeks prematurely and one week before the legal abortion limit.

Since her premature birth, Millie has been at three different hospitals and had a score of treatments, including a heart operation, treatment for seven infections, and multiple blood transfusions – all during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tiffany said: “It’s still not her due date but she’s home and she’s 15 weeks old [last] Sunday. It’s just crazy.”

Matthew added: “We’re out of the woods but we had to fight out of the woods.”

An ‘absolute miracle’

Tiffany and Matthew Bushell had dreamed of starting a family since they met 12 years ago. 

However, they quickly ran into fertility issues once they started trying to conceive. 

After four or five years and an IVF treatment, Tiffany became pregnant with their first daughter, Ruby. Just 24 weeks in, however, Tiffany went into labour and Ruby was born weighing just 1lb 5oz.

Tragically, Ruby didn’t survive.

A year later, Tiffany and Matthew  were shocked to learn they were pregnant again, this time without fertility treatments. 

And, when she went into labour at 23 weeks, she felt history was about to repeat itself after losing Ruby just 18 months earlier. 

“The pregnancy was going really well,” Tiffany told The Mirror. “I was obviously being monitored for anything because of what happened last time, and then at 20 weeks I went in for a routine scan and my cervix was open, so I was taken down for surgery to put a stitch in place. Then three weeks later Millie decided she was coming.

“My waters broke at home so we went to Watford, but we had to be transferred to Chertsey in Surrey, as it was safer for her to be delivered in a level three neo-natal unit because she was so premature.”

Millie was born at St Peter’s Hospital, Cherstey at 2.06pm on 26 April. 

Initially, she did not require a ventilator, however, after two days she began to have difficulty breathing and was immediately put on one.

According to her parents, “that was when everything started to happen.” 

During her nearly 15 week stay, Millie had a score of treatments, including a heart operation, treatment for seven infections, and multiple blood transfusions – all during the coronavirus pandemic. 

In addition, she was transferred to different hospitals twice — once for heart surgery at St Thomas’s in London and a second time to move closer to her parents home at Watford General Hospital. 

“She had chest infections from being ventilated, she had the hole in the heart which every baby is born with but they close within the first few hours, but Millie was so premature it didn’t close,” explained Tiffany.

Despite multiple infections, she has continued to grow and feed well and weighed 5lb 4oz when she was allowed to go home with her parents in August.  

Millie still has a long journey ahead of her, according to her father: “She’s on oxygen 24 hours a day but a nurse comes every week, so we’re hoping it’s going to be reduced to 23 hours soon.

“As she grows up we’re always going to tell her how strong and special she is. We must have taken 2,000 photos to show her when she is older. We’ll also tell her about Ruby.

“She’s had a tough start but what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. And we are so happy and very proud to be her parents.”

New guidance

The survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting the creation of new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

In 2008 only two out of ten babies born alive at 23 weeks went on to survive. Today it is four out of ten, according to the British Association of Perinatal Medicine.

Once a baby passes 22 weeks, the chances of survival increase week-by-week due to technical advances, better healthcare planning and the increased use of steroids.

The increased survival rates have prompted calls to review the current law in order to help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies.

Time for change

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK Catherine Robinson said: “This is something that Parliament should urgently revisit. It has been over a decade since time limits were last debated fully in Parliament, in 2008.

“There is a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive before 24 weeks whilst in another room a doctor could perform an abortion which would end the life of a baby at the same age. Surely this contradiction needs to end.

“Independent polling from Savanta ComRes shows that 70% of women in the UK want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or below. Our current abortion time limit is way out of line with the rest of Europe where the most common abortion time limit is 12 weeks.

“This change in guidance adds further evidence to the need for Parliament to urgently review our current abortion time limit. We support any change in law that would help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies in the womb. 

“It’s time that our laws were brought into line with public opinion, modern science and the rest of Europe.”

Girl born with vital organs outside body is flourishing after parents refused abortion

A two-year-old from Cambridge born with her stomach, liver and bowel on the outside of her body continues to defy the odds after her parents rejected advice from doctors to have an abortion.

Doctors did not expect Laurel Phizacklea, who was born with a major exomphalos – a condition which occurs when the baby’s abdominal wall does not form during pregnancy – to survive birth.

They advised her parents, Kelly and Sean, to consider abortion following a 12-week scan. But they refused, wanting to give their daughter a chance at life, now Laurel continues to defy expectations.

Over the past two years, skin has formed around the organs, and Laurel can eat, drink and go to the toilet like any other toddler.

At the beginning of 2021, the little fighter should be able to have corrective surgery placing her vital organs back inside her body.

Blindsided

Kelly and Sean were over the moon when they discovered they were expecting their first child in October 2017.

The couple excitedly attended their 12-week scan but were blindsided when doctors said something was wrong and offered them a termination.

Doctors explained that their unborn baby had exomphalos.

Early in all pregnancies, the intestine develops inside the umbilical cord and then usually moves inside the abdomen a few weeks later.

In exomphalos, the intestines – and in this case the stomach, liver and bowel – remain inside the umbilical cord but outside the abdomen.

‘It’s OK, you can try again’

Doctors were also determined that Laurel had a spinal abornomality – and advised Kelly and Sean to have an abortion.

“We couldn’t quite believe what we were hearing when they offered us an abortion,” Kelly told the Mail.

“People kept saying: ‘It’s OK, you can try again’ – but I didn’t want another baby.

“I was so in love with this baby and we knew we would do everything we could for her.”

‘From that moment on we knew she was a fighter’

Kelly continued with her pregnancy and went for scans every two weeks to monitor the progress of her unborn baby.

Three weeks before Laurel’s birth, doctors discovered the exomphalos had doubled in size – prompting medics to take both Kelly and Sean aside to tell them their daughter would not survive birth.

However, on June 6th 2018, Laurel let out a cry after being delivered by caesarean section.

“When we heard her cry out I couldn’t believe it,” Kelly said. “Both Sean and I just burst into tears.

“We knew it was far from the end of it – but to hear her cry was a huge relief and from that moment we knew she was a fighter.”

Laurel was born weighing a healthy 7lb 5oz (3.3kg), and put straight on a ventilator before being transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit.

After seven hours, Kelly and Sean were finally able to meet their daughter properly for the first time.

“Her tummy was swaddled in bandages,” Kelly said. “We knew to expect it to look different – so we weren’t scared at all.”

Kelly and Sean were provided with a room at the hospital by the Sick Children’s Trust so they could be with their daughter during her three and a half month stay in Addenbrookes Hospital.

Doctors were worried that Laurel wouldn’t be able to breathe on her own, as it is common in exomphalos cases for the lungs not to have formed properly – but again Laurel defied the odds.

A bright future

Now, the two-year-old is flourishing at home as she awaits corrective surgery to have her organs internalised at the beginning of 2021.

Laurel will undergo the operation at King’s College Hospital, London.

Kelly said: “It is a scary thought, and there are definitely concerns.

“But Laurel has already been through so much, and I am sure she will continue to take everything in her stride.”

Although it will be a relief for both Kelly and Sean when they don’t have to worry about their daughter’s every move, they do worry that it will cause a certain amount of separation anxiety for the tot.

“She loves her tummy so much,” explained Kelly. “She rubs it in the bath when I take the dressing off to wash her and says ‘ah tummy’.

“It’s very cute, and she couldn’t be prouder of it. But I do worry about how she’ll react when it’s not there anymore.”

She added: “I don’t know how we remained positive throughout my pregnancy with Laurel. It really looked as if she wouldn’t survive birth, but Sean and I never gave up hope and she has done us so proud.

“Her pouch of organs on her tummy is a part of her and she doesn’t let it get her down. Laurel is a true inspiration and amazes us every day.”

Woman branded ‘inhumane’ for rejecting abortion is now a proud mother

One woman who was branded “inhumane” for rejecting abortion on multiple occasions is now the proud mother of three-year-old twins.

Hannah Morris was devastated when doctors told to have an abortion at 16 weeks, after her waters broke prematurely.

However, she decided to ignore doctors’ advice and instead trust her gut instinct. As a result, she is the proud mother of healthy twins, George and Alfie King.

‘It is your only option’

Hannah and her partner, Mark King, were ecstatic when they found out that they were expecting twins.

But between 16 weeks and 20 weeks of pregnancy, both of the twins’ amniotic sacs burst – the first just after 16 weeks of pregnancy and the second around three weeks later.

Doctors diagnosed Hannah with preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM) and told the couple to have an abortion as neither baby had any chance of survival.

Recalling the events, Hannah described the experience as “really traumatic”.

She told The Sun: “I had an internal examination and the doctor told me that my waters had broken, and he was really sorry but there was nothing they could do for us.

“I asked a million questions, can the other baby survive? Can it reseal?

“They said, ‘no, there was a 100 per cent chance that this baby won’t survive, you need to have to have some medicine to induce labour, it’s your only option’.

“I didn’t want to do that. My gut was telling me not to follow the advice.

“I knew nothing about PPROM. I didn’t know it was a thing before then. I just rejected all the medical advice.

“I said ‘if I am going to lose them, I lose them naturally and I’ll let nature take its course’.”

Continued pressure to abort

After two days in hospital, a scan revealed that both babies were still healthy and the couple were sent home.

A week later, at a follow-up appointment, doctors again advised Hannah to have an abortion. The 27-year-old was told that if her babies survived to 24 weeks, their limbs would be stuck together and their vital organs wouldn’t be functional.

“[They said] I was only causing them more pain by carrying on with the pregnancy.

“We were considering at this point terminating the pregnancies because this was coming from top consultants,” Hannah revealed.

Yet, each week the pair would go for a scan where they’d be reassured that their babies were healthy.

Despite this, doctors continued to tell the couple to consider an abortion.

Hannah said: “That’s what pushed us to carry on with the pregnancy every single week. We would see the boys on the screen and they would be fine.

“The sonographer would say his lungs are developed, so the kidneys are fine.

“The doctors reviewed it each week and say it looks like they are doing fine but that is going to change so you need to terminate the pregnancy.”

Against all medical advice, Hannah made it to 34 weeks and had a cesarean section.

George was born first weighing 5lb 4oz (2.38kg) and Alfie followed at 4lb 1oz (1.84kg) – both spending four days in a neonatal intensive care unit before being allowed home.

Healthy and thriving

Despite Alfie being born with holes in his heart and George suffering a weakened immune system due to their premature births, both toddlers are now healthy and thriving.

Hannah said: “Taking our boys home was amazing. Just to know that we were right and that we had made the right decision by our children.

“They had defeated all the odds and they were strong, healthy little boys. They are now so cheeky and you look at them and think, wow, you nearly weren’t here.

“What would my life have been like if I hadn’t had them? They are both amazing, they’re awesome.”

Hannah said she was sharing her story to raise awareness of PPROM so that other parents in her situation are better informed.

“They might not necessarily get a positive outcome – they might lose their child.

“But if they have support from other parents who know what they’ve been through it’s going to make the experience easier for them.

“To know as well that they do have other options. Your child can survive this. They may be poorly at the end of it, but they can get through to the other side…

“…The stories of PPROM need to be shared more often so that people know it’s something that does happen.”

‘Babies can and do survive this’

Ciara Curran,the founder of Little Heartbeats who advised Hannah with advice throughout and following her pregnancy, said: “Hannah and her little surviving PPROM babies are living proof these babies can survive with little to zero fluids.

“These babies clearly demonstrate why we need to raise awareness of PPROM, and that terminating the pregnancy is not the only option, as these are just a few of the many babies who have survived…

“All too often [women] are told there is no hope and that their only option is to terminate, but babies can and do survive this.

“If women are supported to continue their pregnancy, with good medical management, there is a chance that they will be able to bring home a surviving baby.

“We are however all too aware that not all babies can survive PPROM, and we are anxious to support women through their PPROM pregnancy regardless of outcome.”

Mother speaks of joy after baby who had spina bifida surgery in the womb learns to walk

The mother of a one-year-old girl who had pioneering spine surgery while still in the womb has told the BBC seeing her daughter walk is “amazing”.

After diagnosing Elouise with spina bifida, doctors had offered her parents a termination, saying the outcome was “bleak”.

Her parents, Kieron and Bethan Simpson, refused and Elouise is flourishing having recently taken her first steps.

‘Hope in the darkness’

The Simpsons were overjoyed when they found out they were expecting a baby, but were left disheartened when a midwife discovered their baby had a disability during the 20-week scan.

However, two days later, a specialist at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) told the couple about the possibility of a ground-breaking new surgery.

Instead of a termination, Bethan and Kieron the parents were able to choose foetal repair surgery in January 2019 and were among the first families in the UK to do so.

“There was a bit of hope in that darkness,” Bethan said.

The mental health nurse underwent a five-hour operation at 25 weeks, during which her womb was opened and a series of tiny stitches were used to close the gap in Elouise’s spine.

Bethan and Elouise were among the first in the UK to undergo the procedure in January 2019.

The successful surgery was funded by a charitable trust between UCLH and Great Ormond Street Hospital, but has since been made routinely available on the NHS.

Since that surgery, Elouise has celebrated her first birthday in lockdown and has recently begun to walk.

Bethan said they would “forever” be in the debt of staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London Hospital.

Describing seeing her daughter walk, she added: “It makes us feel amazing, she is an absolute joy. She’s everything you could want and more in a child, actually. She’s perfect…”

Dominic Thompson, consultant paediatric neurosurgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “It is wonderful to see that Elouise is doing so well.

“As a paediatric consultant, it is very special and rewarding to meet someone that you operated on before they were even born, and I still get the wow factor when I get to see these children in clinic for follow up.”

‘Misinformed’

Earlier this year, Bethan raised concerns that pregnant women are being misinformed on spina bifida.

“Since becoming a mum I’ve had the chance to reflect on that traumatic time. My only option was to fight. But most importantly, it was about being informed.”

“There is a lot of negative information around spina bifida.”

“Without being fully informed as parents, Elouise would not be where she is now.”

A better option

Her concerns were shared by a mother who described the relentless pressure she faced to have an abortion after doctors diagnosed her baby with spina bifida last year.

Natalie Halson, who refused an abortion ten times, said doctors “made out like an abortion was my only option and explained that if I went ahead with the pregnancy my baby would be wheelchair bound and have no quality of life.”

“When I got off the phone I went and did tonnes of research and found out that there were options for my little girl – I felt suddenly really angry that they had made out I had none.”