A brave tot nicknamed the “blueberry muffin baby” after her body erupted in blue lesions because of a rare leukaemia has made a miracle recovery.
Six-month-old Mia McConnelogue developed an aggressive type of leukaemia in the womb which caused blue marks to develop on her arms, legs, chest and face.
She started her first round of chemo at just two days old but doctors gave her just a 50 per cent chance of survival.
Now – after five months in hospital, three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant – Mia has been given the all-clear and is back at home and thriving.
Mum Stephanie McConnelogue, 29, believes Mia would not have survived if she had not fought for doctors to continue the treatment when it appeared to be failing.
The mother of two girls, who has spent two months in Bristol for Mia’s treatment with her partner, Tony Love, said: I can’t believe we are home and she is here.
“Mia is a miracle. There are no words to describe it.
“She is unbelievable. Now all her eyebrows and her hair is all growing back. She was born with hair and then it it all fell out because of the chemo.
“You wouldn’t even know that she has been through anything. She is a happy, healthy little baby.”
Full-time mum Stephanie said that the whole way through her pregnancy with Mia she knew something was wrong.
She gave birth at 1.20am on March 18 2015 at Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, ten days after her due date.
“As soon as they pushed her out I just looked at her and she had these big lesions on her skin,” said Stephanie.
“The midwife who was there was very old and she said in her 43 years in the job she had never seen anything like it.
“Mia was just covered in these lesions which were getting darker and darker and there were bruises on her forehead.
“The midwife said I must have had a bit of the flu that had affected her, but I hadn’t had the flu.
“I only got to hold her for about a minute and then they took her away for tests.
“The next thing I knew I started getting pains in my chest and I couldn’t talk. It must have been shock.”
At 7am – less that six hours after Mia was born – doctors told Stephanie and Tony that their baby had acute myeloid leukaemia and gave her a 50 per cent chance of survival.
The blue and purple eruptions on her skin – which looked like the blueberries in a blueberry muffin – were caused by the way the cancer had developed in the womb.
Stephanie said: “I couldn’t believe that it was happening. I felt like I was in a dream and that I was going to wake up some time.
“We were all just devastated. I was terrified she was going to die, absolutely terrified.
“They were saying it was serious and to be aware that little babies can give up and stop breathing, so I stayed up with her all night. I was just so scared to lose her.”
Mia underwent her first session of chemotherapy at just two days old after being transferred to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Belfast.
After a few days, the lesions began to fade from her feet up and within two weeks they were all gone.
“It was amazing to see her without them,” said Stephanie.
“She was like a different child, but she was really puffed up because of all the fluids and she looked really fragile.
“She was in so much pain, you couldn’t change her nappy because she would just cry and cry. She was very unsettled.”
However, Mia’s lesions kept returning in the same spots as the next session approached.
Doctors told Stephanie and Tony that she would not survive more intensive chemotherapy – but they refused to accept that her little girl was going to die.
“I stood my ground and said I’m not going to take her home,” said Stephanie, of Derry, Northern Ireland.
“We had seen something online which said it was treatable.
“I said if they weren’t going to treat her then I would take her to Austria, where we were in contact with a professor.
“We were just so tense and so scared. We were desperately trying to find ways to help Mia survive.”
Finally, the doctors at the Royal Children’s Hospital agreed to treat Mia and a haemotologist came up with a plan to give her a seven-day chemotherapy treatment.
Miraculously, just weeks later it looked like the chemo was working – and tests confirmed that she was in remission.
Aged three and a half months, Mia was transferred to the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for more chemo in preparation for a bone marrow transplant.
The 20-minute transplant, which was done with cord blood and cuts the chances of the leukaemia recurring, was carried out on July 17.
Now, after spending two months staying in CLIC Sargent accommodation in Bristol while Mia was closely monitored, the family are finally back at home.
Stephanie and Tony need to be ultra careful that she does not catch a cold or any other infection as her immune system is weak – but she is thriving.
“The staff and doctors were absolutely amazing,” said Stephanie.
“We have been home now for about three weeks.
Tony, 36, who is a mechanic, added: “We are over the moon to say the least.
“I would tell other parents to get a second opinion. At the end of the day, if we did take her home she might not be here now.”