A proud mum has spoken of her daughter’s battle against the odds after she was born so premature her that BRAIN was showing through her transparent skin.
Mum-of-three Cheri Price, 22, could not believe her daughter Hailie Dillon survived a collapsed lung and seven minutes without breathing when she was born at 23 weeks and six days.
She says it was shocking to see her daughter – now a healthy one-year-old – showcasing dark brain matter through her red-coloured skull.
Due to Hallie’s skin not having time to develop the pigmentation in the later stages of pregnancy and her skull not yet being fully developed, it resulted in the brain being on show.
It was 18 days before Cheri could even hold her little 1lbs 2oz fighter after she was born at James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough on February 23 last year.
Newborns are deemed to only be ‘viable’ from after the 24 week mark and only have around 35 per cent chance of survival, according to NHS stats.
Cheri, who lives on the Isle of Wight, said: “When Hailie was born, it sounds bad to say it, but she looked like a red alien.
“She was still in the foetus stage and she didn’t look like a baby at all – we couldn’t believe she even survived.
“From birth she was put in an incubator and we couldn’t touch her – but we could see all the veins of her brain through her red skin.”
Cheri began contractions suddenly after losing her ‘mucus plug’, the dam between the uterus and vagina, while at home on the Isle of Wight on January 30 last year.
This kick-started the birth process – but Cheri was only 20 weeks pregnant so the hospital on the island could not do anything to save the baby.
Cheri claims the island’s St Mary’s hospital at Newport ‘classed her pregnancy as a late miscarriage’ – and did not have the facilities to accommodate newborns prior to the 24 week mark.
The mum then made the decision with her boyfriend Timothy Dillon, 32, to travel to Darlington, Teeside, to be closer to Tim’s brother who would help with child care for their 11-month-old son Jack.
Cheri thought better hospital care in the North East would allow her to be in hospital and family to stay with relatives – because they couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel for weeks on end in Portsmouth.
While battling contractions during the 300 mile, eight hour journey, Cheri, Tim and Jack took a ferry to Portsmouth and then a train all the way up to the North East on February 6, 2017.
The soon to be mum says she thought there was no way her unborn child would have survived without heading to better hospital care facilities.
After a fortnight in and out of hospital in Middlesbrough, Cheri was then ready to head back down south to have the baby on the island because was looking at surpassing the 24 week mark.
Unfortunately her contractions had also eased thanks to the drugs used and was discharged on February 19.
However, her waters broke on February 21 – and she gave birth to Hailie on February 23 at James Cook University hospital in Middlesbrough.
The little tot had to be resuscitated when she was born after she didn’t breathe for seven minutes – and just two days later her lung collapsed.
Cheri said: “We just thought we would take the chance at a larger hospital – and we were closer to relatives so they could help with childcare for Jack.
“I was discharged – but then my waters broke while I was watching Hollyoaks two days later.”
Cheri says it is a mystery why her waters broke – but is concerned that the Isle of Wight hospital did not have suitable facilities for very premature babies.
“It’s a bit of a sore subject really,” said Cheri. “I would expect a hospital on an island with a boat trip to needed to get the mainland to have the capacity to have grade one level care.
“I’m so proud of her, what we’ve been through and what she has been through has been horrendous.
“We thought we would lose her at so many points and we’ve had no help whatsoever.”
Cheri and NHS Mental Health support worker Timothy then spent an agonising three months at staff accommodation at James Cook University hospital in Middlesbrough.
However, Hailie had still not opened her eyes after they had been fused together – and she faced being permanently blind as her retina was not developing properly.
She was diagnosed with stage three ROP (Retinopathy of prematurity) and had to visit specialist hospitals back down south by private plane.
The newborn was flown to Princess Anne hospital in Southampton and then later visited Portsmouth Queen Alexandria hospital – which eventually saved her sight.
She was finally allowed home on June 19 last year – two days after her actual due date.
Cheri, who is a full-time mummy and carer to her eldest child Liam Price, seven, who has ADHD, said she is no longer planning on having any more children.
“Timothy is definitely getting the snip now – I’ve said no more kids, he now has four kids, two from a previous relationship, so that’s it now – he’s agreed,” Cheri said.
Adding: “Hopefully next year he can treat me to somewhere away from hospitals.”
Isle of Wight St Mary’s hospital has been contacted for comment.
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