Mother knits 70 hats for premature babies to thank NHS for safe delivery of daughter born prematurely 70 years ago

A woman has celebrated the 70th birthday of her premature daughter by knitting more than 70 baby hats for the neonatal unit at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, as a way of saying thank you to the NHS.

Mary Sellstrom was 7 months pregnant when, a week before her 18th birthday in 1950, she went into labour. Her daughter, Barbara, was born weighing just 2lb 12oz (1.25kg).

Following her birth, Barbara was immediately taken away and placed in an incubator where she could be monitored by the midwifery team at the former Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary.

Mary shared how she was not allowed to touch or hold Barbara and had to remain in bed for 10 days.

The now 88-year-old said: “My husband was allowed to see the baby once through the window of the incubator room where our daughter lay. He was then asked to leave.”

“There was no touching, no holding, just looking through the window.

“I was heartbroken and longed to hold her.”

Mary revealed how she had to travel to the hospital twice a day by bus, walking nearly two miles to the nearest bus stop, to feed Barbara.

Every day Barbara got stronger. After five weeks Mary was allowed to hold and breastfeed her daughter.

“Holding her for the first time is a feeling I have never forgotten until this day,” Mary revealed.

The little fighter continued to improve and was eventually allowed home weighing 5lb 8oz. In her adult life, Barbara became a nurse, a mother and a grandmother.

Mary said that without the dedication and determination of the midwifery team, her firstborn would never have survived.

As a heart-warming gesture of thanks, Mary has spent her time during the coronavirus lockdown knitting small hats for the premature babies being cared for in the Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

She told the Falkirk Herald: “Someone had said the hospital was desperate for hats for the premature babies and I like to knit.

“During lockdown I wasn’t going out so I decided I’d knit 70 of them as Barbara was turning 70.”

Mary recently went with one of her other daughters, Jacquie, to hand the hats into the hospital.

The mother of four added: “The staff were really pleased to see so many.

“I’m now knitting sleeves for them for the babies to wear when they have a canula in.”

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.”

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.”

Baby born at 22 weeks defies the odds to survive

A premature baby girl born at 22 weeks and two days, weighing just 1lb 2oz (510g), is among the youngest surviving premature babies in the world.

Lura Lauer gave birth to twins, Lyric Elaine and Cali Rose, after going into premature labour on 15 July, four months before her November 16 due date.

Doctors gave the girls just a 10% chance of survival at their birth. Tragically, Cali Rose passed away two days after her birth.

Their surviving daughter Lyric, now four-weeks-old, is her mother’s “little fighter”.

Telling her story to the Sun, Lura said: “She’s such a little fighter and the nurses and doctors have been taking great care of her.

“They’ve been very vigilant and proactive, everything that’s popped up they’ve caught quickly. The doctor’s exact words were, ‘She is amazing us every day.’ She is truly a miracle.”

‘It felt like a nightmare’

Lura found out she was pregnant in March and learned she was having twins during her first appointment with her gynaecologist.

The yoga teacher revealed she started to experience contractions around 20 weeks pregnant but thought they were Braxton Hicks – ‘false labour’ pains that are common in pregnancy. 

Lura’s doctor agreed that the contractions were probably Braxton Hicks when she had a check-up on 14 July and was told she could continue her yoga practice.

However, after teaching a class that evening, her contractions worsened to the point that she couldn’t sleep and she spent the night crying in pain. 

Following a phone call with doctors the next day, Lura was told to visit her local hospital immediately. 

Lura went straight to Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center, North Carolina, with her partner, Ricky, where they learned she was already 3 centimetres dilated. She was given medicine to stop the contractions before speaking with a neonatal doctor. 

“He told us the hospital we were at do not resuscitate if you give birth to a baby at less than 24 weeks,” she recalled.

“He said if I was to give birth that day, I would have to say goodbye because they’re not viable at that age.

“They said they didn’t have the capability to care for babies that young. It felt like a nightmare.”

The couple decided to transfer to the nearby Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte because it had a more advanced neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which would also give their babies a chance at life.

At Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, Lura went into labour and less than an hour later, at 7:53pm, Lyric Elaine was born ‘with one push.’

Cali Rose arrived the same way three minutes later, weighing an ounce less than her sister, at 1lb 1oz (482g). Both were only 11 inches long.

“I heard both of them cry and they both were breathing, which was a good sign, but they were immediately rushed out of the room, before I got to hold them,” Lura said.

Sadly, two days after giving birth, a doctor told Lura that Cali had two brain haemorrhages that were both grade 4 – the most severe – and was declining.

She died that same day.

Lura said: “Even though she was only here for a couple of days, she made such a big impact on our lives.”

Immense peace

Lyric had a grade 1 brain haemorrhage, but started showing improvement after her sister passed away and has had few complications aside from some necessary procedures.

Two and a half weeks after her birth, Lura was able to hold Lyric for the first time.

Recalling the emotional moment, she said an “immense joy and peace washed over [her]” when they put Lyric in her arms.  

She said: “I was holding my baby girl and she was holding me. I prayed for this moment. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to let her go. But the moment came and went, and soon after she was placed back into her incubator…

“She’s still got a long fight ahead of her. Every day brings new challenges for her and she is bravely taking on each one…”

’22 weekers: Surviving and thriving’

Lura told the Sun since posting pictures of her daughter on social media mothers from all over the world, from Istanbul to Canada, have reached out with stories of 22 weekers surviving and thriving. 

“It just baffles me that so many hospitals don’t resuscitate at that age, because it is absolutely possible for a baby to survive.

“I think Lyric is an example that — even when the doctors are unsure — hope, faith, determination, and love are such powerful energies. I believe that’s what’s keeping our daughter alive,” she added. 

“This is why I wanted to share her story. Lyric is an inspiration to me and to so many other people. 

“She is a beacon of hope in hopeless times.”

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.”

Premature twins born before legal abortion limit now flourishing at home

Premature twins born five days apart have beaten the odds to become among the youngest to survive premature birth in Britain.

Dolly was born at just 23 weeks and one day weighing just 1lb and 1oz (482g). Five days later Albert was born weighing 1lb 6oz (624g).

The twins are now flourishing at home with parents Shona and Darren.

Dental nurse Shona Jeffery’s pregnancy had been developing as expected until she went into labour when she was just 22 weeks and six days pregnant.

After rushing to her local hospital, the couple were told that their babies were too young to save.

“They said there was nothing they could do for us and sorry that we had lost our babies as they was under the 23 weeks,” Shona told the Sun.

“They had no facilities to help if they arrived. They would just pass them to us once they had been born and they then put us in a room for this to happen.”

But, despite her waters breaking and contractions beginning, Shona did not give birth.

Then, as the clock struck midnight Darren and Shona received some hopeful news.

As Shona had reached 23 weeks – one week shy of the 24-week legal limit for abortions in England and Wales – doctors were willing to intervene and try and save the babies.

Shona was given steroids to help boost the twins’ still-growing lungs and she was sent by ambulance to Brighton Hospital.

The couple were warned that if the twins were delivered on the way to Brighton that they’d not survive the journey.

“Thankfully, we made it there fine,” Shona said.

One day later, two teams of specialists helped deliver Dolly at 23 weeks and one day.

Surprisingly, Shona’s labour stopped.

Doctors then told Shona she could deliver the second twin at any point but could also end up going full term.

However, the wait wasn’t too long.

Five days later Albert was delivered naturally, at 23 weeks and 6 days.

“That was when the real battle began. Watching them fighting for their life each day,” Shona said.

“But every day they grew a little bit more and became a little bit stronger.”

Both twins needed eye surgery and Dolly had an operation to fix a hole in her heart.

In March, Albert, the stronger of the twins was discharged from a neonatal intensive care unit and was allowed home.

And last month, to the family’s joy, Dolly also left hospital.

Darren, a landscape gardener said: “Against the odds our little miracles have survived and shocked everyone and have come home.

“Every doctor we have spoken to said we should count our lucky stars. They are just so precious to us.”

Dr Asma Khalil, a spokesman for Tamba (Twins and Multiple Births Association), said: “The fact that these babies are now doing well is incredible.

“Twin pregnancies delivered at 23 weeks would have far poorer chances of survival compared to a singleton pregnancy.

“Of babies born at 23-24 weeks, only about 50 per cent would survive and 50 per cent of the survivors would have some sort of disability.

“It would be fair to say that in circumstances where twins are born this early, most doctors would be preparing the family for the worst.

“So the fact these babies are now doing well, months on, is incredible.”

Last year, it was revealed that the survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

Additionally, a recent study has revealed the majority of premature babies grow up to be healthy adults without any major health problems.

Sadly, it is currently legal in Great Britain to abort unborn babies up to 24 weeks, or up to birth if doctors believe the baby will be born with a disability.

In 2018, the latest year with published data, 845 live births were recorded in England of babies with a gestational age of less than 24 weeks, according to the Office for National Statistics

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “It has been over a decade since abortion time limits were last debated fully in Parliament, in 2008. Since then the survival rate for premature babies has doubled.

“Our current abortion time limit, at 24 weeks, is way out of line with medical breakthroughs and the rest of Europe where the most common abortion time limit is 12 weeks, making time limits an issue Parliament should urgently revisit.”“Additionally, independent polling from ComRes shows that 70% of women in the UK want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or below.”