Wexford couple call on people to support World Prematurity Day

By Amy Lewis

Published 19/11/2016 | 00:00

Mum with baby Brandon who weighed just three pounds when born at 29 weeks. Right: Brandon is now a healthy, happy 4-year-old.
Mum with baby Brandon who weighed just three pounds when born at 29 weeks. Right: Brandon is now a healthy, happy 4-year-old.
Mum with baby Brandon who weighed just three pounds when born at 29 weeks. Right: Brandon is now a healthy, happy 4-year-old.

What should have been a happy time for expectant parents Nycola and Marc Hillis turned into a nightmare when their first son Brandon was born at 29 weeks.

His early arrival was not the first shock to hit the Castlebridge residents as only two weeks previously, they had been involved in a serious car accident. When Nycola's waters broke unexpectedly and she was rushed to hospital, the pair feared that the accident had caused them to lose their baby.

'We went to Wexford General Hospital and they immediately said we wouldn't be able to stay there as they didn't have the equipment to look after us. My head was in a spin; I didn't know what was going on,' explained Nycola, who is originally from Wexford town. 'They said we would have to go to Waterford or Holles Street and at the time, I was hoping for Waterford as it was much closer to home. But I soon learned that Holles Street is the Mecca for people if they have any trouble during pregnancy.'

Nycola was brought to the hospital immediately and waited five days before she gave birth. She said that, during those difficult few days, the staff did everything that they could to keep her comfortable and informed.

'I couldn't get over their care and how informed they are. I always feel better when I know what is going on in these situations and the staff were so on the ball with keeping me up to date. They even assured me that there was a good chance I could go to term,' said Nycola.

Due to a risk of infection later on, Nycola was forced to give birth by emergency C-section.

'I gave birth just before I reached 30 weeks so they had to take Brandon away right away. It was so scary but I knew he was in the best possible hands,' said Nycola. 'They brought him to Unit 8 for premature babies. I gave birth at seven minutes to ten at night and had to wait until someone could bring me in a wheelchair to see him. So I didn't meet him until eleven hours later. My husband had to show me a video of Brandon on his phone.'

In the following days, Nycola and Mark were prepared for the worst outcome for Brandon, who weighed only 3 lbs when he was born. Though Nycola was discharged from hospital after a few days, she stayed with her sister in Kildare and travelled in to feed her newborn everyday.

'We were told that he would more than likely have troubles and might need a breathing apparatus when he went home. But he was fine. It was such a bonus when he was born and because we were prepared for the worst, every day that he was healthy was another bonus after that,' said Nycola.

Brandon was soon brought home healthy and happy and now aged four, he is doing better than ever.

'He's unbelievable. He has a little bit of chest trouble and is on an inhaler but that really only affects him in the winter. We were told that he could be behind walking, talking and education wise. But that's not the case at all. Every time we get a report home from Montessori, he is ahead of his class. He is already able to spell and write,' said Nycola.

Though the family's hospital days are long behind them, Nycola said she still remembers the care given to her at Holles Street and likes to do something for them each year in light of World Prematurity Day on November 17. In recent years, she and her family organised a coffee morning and raised €600 for the cause. Though she hasn't organised one for this year just yet, she is calling on people to Text UNIT8 to 50300 to donate €4 to the NMH Foundation. These funds will be used to support the families of babies in the National Maternity Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit who are going through ordeals like the Hillis'.

'I am encouraging everyone to send a text to raise money for parents, particularly those living out of Dublin. It can help to cover the cost of things such as parking and accommodation at a time that is difficult as it is,' she said.

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