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Source: The pressure and joys of caring for premature babies-The Irish Times
When Verity Fleming unexpectedly arrived into the world last month she weighed less than 800g – or 1lb 12oz to use the scale still used by most Irish people when talking about newborn babies.
“She’s 2lb 11oz today,” her father, Dave, says with pride as he watches his child sleeping peacefully in her mother’s arms in the neonatal intensive care unit at the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) on Dublin’s Holles Street.
“2lb 12,” the child’s mother Anne Marie corrects him.
Every ounce matters here. And every hour matters, too. Verity was born at just 25 weeks – arriving 15 weeks early because her mother had been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening internal bleed.
Since then, she has spent six weeks in an incubator in the neonatal unit in Holles Street, which cares for acutely-ill and preterm babies from across Ireland. She will be there for at least 10 more weeks.
While her early arrival put the Wexford couple, with four young children at home, on an emotional rollercoaster, they are full of smiles. Verity is still with them. Given the circumstances that is little short of miraculous. “She is doing great,” Dave says, “It’s unbelievable, really.”
Dr Colm O’Donnell, a consultant neonatologist at both the NMH and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, is one of those charged with making the unbelievable happen.
“Things have has changed dramatically over the last 30 or 40 years,” he says simply, as he completes his morning rounds.
In the 1980s, babies born any earlier than 28 weeks were classified as stillbirths because their survival chances were so low. Today a baby born at 28 weeks has a 90 per cent chance, while babies born at 24 weeks have a 50/50 chance .
“It has been one of the big leaps forward,” Dr O’Donnell says, “but we are still a long way from being home and hosed. As more premature babies survive, more have long-term problems and we have really focused on learning more about that and how we can improve outcomes.”