16 November 2022

Baby Ava’s journey through intensive care

Lily and David Walker live on the Isle of Wight and were flown to hospital when Lily went into premature labour 14 weeks early. It has been the hardest year of their lives as their first child Ava, now eleven months old, has never left hospital. Mum Lily explains:

“I went into labour on 28 December 2021 at only 23 weeks plus five days. David and I were so worried, it was all happening so quickly.

We were blue-lit by ambulance across the island, then flown by helicopter to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth.

Ava was delivered that afternoon at 2.27pm via emergency c-section.

We spent nine weeks in their neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) before being transferred to Southampton Children’s Hospital’s neonatal ICU for additional specialist care as Ava was so premature, weighing only 1lb 4oz.

There were monitors everywhere, and we had our own nursing team who would care for Ava round the clock. They became like family to us, sharing in all the little moments.

There was a lot going on in those first few months!

Since birth, Ava needed support to breathe. Due to these complications with her airways, she needed to be ventilated.

She had countless blood tests and brain scans to check for any build-up of fluid on the brain so they could try and get ahead of any problems.

We had discussions with the consultants about doing PDA ligation surgery to close a hole in her heart. After several echocardiogram tests and scans for the heart murmur and constant monitoring, thankfully she responded well to treatment so didn’t end up needing the surgery.

Ava also had weekly eye checks for retinopathy of prematurity which is an eye disease affecting premature babies.

She has already received injections and had laser surgery, although she will need further treatment in the future.

We were moved to the paediatric ICU in June.

Ava’s lungs continued to develop, then when she was five months old, she was taken off the ventilator. She needed a tracheostomy to help her to breathe as her lungs were still quite small, but it meant we could begin to do so much more with her.

We spent just over a month in the high dependency unit before de-escalating to the paediatric medical unit where we’ve been since September, learning how to care for Ava with the tracheostomy.

The staff at Southampton Children’s Hospital are amazing. We have met what feels like hundreds of lovely staff members over the last few months during our hospital stay.

They really do go above and beyond with supporting us, just recently helping us with a last-minute christening for Ava!

We know that our hospital journey is far from over. We have had some of the worst news and seen things no parent ever wants to see their child go through, but we also have some really special memories, including Ava’s first smile.

She has grown from a 1lb 4oz baby to a beautiful crazy 13lb 11oz little girl!

Spending so much time in hospital, the nurses have become a large part of her life too. They have been amazing, and we will forever be amazed at how far they have managed to get Ava.

Thank you doesn’t seem like enough.”

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