In January 2015 our daughter Grace was born at 24 weeks gestation.
I was told I had PPROM (Preterm premature rupture of the membranes) – my waters started leaking and in turn I developed an infection. As we live in Cavan I was transferred to the Rotunda as they are better equipped to care for babies born before 30 weeks. Grace stayed with me for another 2 weeks when the worst happened- the cord prolapsed and Grace was gone taking a part of us with her. The delivery room was so quiet and still, Grace was tiny yet so perfect. We were devastated.
I fell pregnant again in November 2015. My joy instantly turned to fear and in April of this year my greatest fear happened. During my 23rd week of pregnancy, the week I had been dreading, I had ‘a show’. We went straight to Cavan general; the team immediately transferred me to the Rotunda.
Ruth was born 3 days later. The silence in the delivery room was deafening once she was born – my heart stopped. Then the Doctors looked at each other and I heard ‘yes’ and saw heads nodding. Ruth was wheeled past me with a brief stop so I could look at her.
Ruth was born at 23 weeks and 4 days weighing a mere 660g (1lb 7oz). On the cusp of viability the odds were stacked heavily against her. Our NICU journey was one of constant, unwavering hope. We had lost one daughter and now we were looking on at one battling to live. The team in the Rotunda not only saved our daughter but they saved us too. They were consistently honest and realistic with us from day one and we greatly appreciated that. We switched to auto pilot after that and kept going – our greatest inspiration coming from our tiny girl who, it seemed, had far greater strength than us.
Ruth was nearly lost among the wires – we soon realised that most of these wires could be stuck back on and we didn’t fear them so much after a while. As with the alarms too – we learned what they meant and they too faded into the background.
Unsurprisingly Ruth underwent a lot during her NICU journey:
- She was given Morphine to help her get better and much needed sleep.
- Treated with Brufen and paracetamol to try and close her PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriousus-abnormal blood flow in the heart). Ruth still has this issue.
- Diuretics were given to help with fluid buildup.
- Ruth extubated herself 4 times – one of those times I happened to walk in with all the staff around her re-intubating her (one of the harder days I had in the NICU).
- Ruth was on a ventilator for 3 and half weeks, she received Steroids to help her come off this machine. Next she moved to other breathing aids – CPAP to High Flow Oxygen. I found CPAP quite hard as her little face was lost behind a mask and a cap. Eventually Ruth made it to room air!
- Ruth also got RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) which can be devastating for preemies. Miraculously we did not discover this until she was already on the road to recovery!
I was fortunate that I could spend my days in the NICU. I quickly lost the feeling that I was just ‘visiting’ my child. I knew Ruth so well and took on as much responsibility as I could and that was appropriate. I became confident with my little girl and was very much her mother – albeit in a very traumatic environment!
At 31 weeks Ruth had her eyes checked for ROP. After getting the thumbs up we were transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) in Cavan General. Things progressed quickly from here.
During one particular cuddle I was having with Ruth (she was 34 weeks gestation at this point) she seemed to be moving her head quite a bit and not settling. I asked the nurse if she was ‘Rooting’ and if I could try to feed her. Ruth latched straight away and this is a moment I will treasure forever. The day all the tubes, wires and monitors were removed was almost like a dream. At 36 and half weeks gestation, after 91 days in hospital we took our sweetheart home.
Our son Ollie adores her. Our daughter Grace is her guardian angel.
Paul & Carol McEnroe
Parents to Baby Ruth. (Ruth & Amy were together in Rotunda NICU)
Paul & Carol have put together some great tips for parents who live far away from the hospital which you can view here