First birthday joy for 'miracle baby'

Thursday, 20 April 2017

First birthday joy for 'miracle baby' thumbnailBig smiles from little Peter and his mum, Claire.

MARKING a child's first birthday is an occasion close to every parent's heart and is a cause for great celebration amongst family and friends but for the Galbraith family, who live between Victoria Bridge and Strabane, it's just a little bit extra special.

Little Peter, who is the son of Claire and Trevor Galbraith and younger brother to three-year-old Robbie, was born 12 weeks prematurely in Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry, weighing only 1lb 9oz in April last year.

At 24 weeks, Claire developed pre-eclampsia which caused her blood pressure to increase and a doppler scan at 28 weeks revealed that the blood supply to Peter was providing inadequate nutrition and an early delivery was imminent for his survival.

"Living on a sheep farm, April is always a very busy month with lambing but we never anticipated that our second baby Peter, who was due in July, would arrive 12 weeks early, right in the heart of lambing season," Claire recalled.

"Due to an increase in my blood pressure because of pre-eclampsia at 24 weeks, we were being monitored closely and at a routine appointment the doppler scan at 28 weeks revealed that the blood supply to Peter was providing inadequate nutrition to grow. Delivery was likely in the next few days in order for him to survive."

Baby Peter was delivered via cesarian section and was swiftly taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit moments after birth, where the family would remain at his side for a lengthy 13 weeks.

"He was delivered by caesarian section at Altnagelvin Hospital," Claire continued. "Unusually the amniotic membranes surrounding him were intact.

"Theatre had many medical and nursing staff present waiting in anticipation to provide immediate care to this new arrival who had entered the world extremely early.

"We got a glimpse of Peter before he was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit which would become our home for 13 weeks."

Peter spent the first few weeks of his life in an incubator and he underwent four blood transfusions during that time. As well as depending on generous blood donors, Peter also received much needed breast milk donations from the Milk Bank in Irvinestown.

Claire said: "Due to prematurity and extremely low birth weight he initially needed intensive support in order to survive such as a ventilator to support his breathing, an incubator to regulate his body temperature and intravenous nutrition due to the immaturity of his gut.

"This was the start of a journey that other parents with premature babies told us would be a 'rocky road with good days and bad,' and it was certainly proving to be the case.

"Premature babies are unable to make their own blood cells so Peter required four blood transfusions. One would never imagine that when donating blood that it could be crucial to the survival of such tiny babies.

"Due to his gut being so immature, he would have been susceptible to a potentially life threatening bowel condition if he received a formula feed at this time. Due to the generosity of breast feeding mothers who supply breast milk to the Milk Bank in Irvinestown, his first tube feed was donated breast milk, which was much easier for his tiny bowel to digest. Peter then continued to be fed for 10 weeks by a nasogastric tube with my expressed breast milk."

Peter gradually began gaining weight and grew in strength and was eventually discharged from hospital in July last year, which was a very happy occasion for everyone concerned.

"Gaining approximately an ounce a day, we spent 10 weeks in Altnagelvin's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, followed by three weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit to get oral feeding established and to reach a weight to allow him to come home.

"The staff were outstanding, supporting parents each step of the way alongside chaplaincy staff and the premature baby charity Tinylife, whose North West worker visited the unit regularly.

"The happiest day was when we were reunited as a family on the day Peter got home in July. We received overwhelming support from our family, friends, church and local community who provided for us practically during those early days of uncertainly and who faithfully prayed for his progress. We are thankful to God for answering our prayers."

The remarkable little boy is due to celebrate his first birthday on Saturday surrounded by loved ones and his family are planning to give something back to the Neonatal Unit in Altnagelvin, which was so vital to Peter in the first stages of his life.

"Our little miracle is now approaching his first birthday and is a happy and thriving little boy," Claire said. "He's full of smiles, sitting up and saying 'baa' in keeping with the sheep in the surrounding fields.

"To celebrate his first year we are joining with family and friends at a coffee morning in our home on Saturday to raise funds for the Neonatal Unit, who diligently support premature babies and their families within the West."

In the wake of her family's challenging journey, Claire has offered some sound advice to other parents who may be in the same position.

She concluded: "Setbacks are inevitable on the roller coaster journey of being a premature baby's parent but have confidence in the Neonatal team and enjoy the privilege of watching a little life develop outside of the womb right in front of your eyes."


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