Approximately 4,500 babies are born premature in Ireland each year. That means that one in every 16 births in Ireland are pre-term.
Having a premature baby is a scary situation as Knockbridge mother Dara McNally knows only too well after her daughter, Amelia was born at just 24 weeks and five days old.
“My waters broke for no reason at all and I was rushed to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda,” said Dara.
“I was told that my baby had a slim chance of surviving upon arrival.”
Soon after Dara was taken to the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin where she was given steroid shots to help strengthen and protect the baby’s lungs.
“”We were told she had a 40% chance of surviving, especially as she was a girl as they are better fighters,” said Dara.
Ameila was born on June 25 at 2.25am weighing just one pound and seven and a half ounces.
“My due date wasn’t until October 8,” said Dara.
“Doctors told us she had septicaemia and would have died in the womb had my waters not broken.
“The first two weeks were hell, Myself and my husband Brendan travelled up and down to see her every day and it was a constant roller-coaster of good news and bad news.
“I only got to see her face when she was five days old and her skin was purpley and see-through and she bruised very easily.
“She found it difficult to breathe on her own and was put on a ventilator four times.
“She also contracted viral meningitis and spent some time in the intensive care unit at Crumlin Children’s Hospital.”
Amelia also has a heart condition called Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) which means her heart beats faster than normal.
“It was difficult to diagnose as she couldn’t receive any scans until she reached full term and her brain had fully developed.
“After she was moved to Drogheda everything happened very fast,” said Dara. “She started to breathe on her own and could be fed without a feeding tube.
“She got an MRI scan and everything looked normal.
“We were lucky as we got to take her home at 37 weeks.
“She’s been getting on great. We have to be very careful about her lungs so we avoid taking her out and she has a lot of medication to take but I’m getting used to it now.”
Amelia still has to see a cardiologist regularly and she has to get physiotherapy for her hips.
“She was born with two holes in her heart and one closed up in a month so we are hoping the other one will too,” Dara explained.
“She also needs a special injection monthly, which costs €1000, to help her if she does get sick.”
Dara adds that Amelia is “coming on great now and we are looking forward to having her christened soon.”
Dara, who also has another daughter, toddler Esmé, said that the Irish Premature Babies (IPB) were and still are a great support to her.
“They have been a great support and I only wish I had contacted them earlier,” said Dara.
“They gave me a hospital grade pump which was a great help and enabled me to express milk as Amelia couldn’t have formula.”
Every mother who wants to express milk should be given a hospital grade pump for use both while she is in hospital and while she is at home.
Currently this is not the case and IPB supply mothers with a pump free of charge. Otherwise they would have to pay as much as €96.57 per month.
IPB comprises of volunteers who provide a wide range of services for families and particularly for those struggling financially. The charity provide home support grants for families who have pre-term quads, bereavement counselling, emergency assistance with accommodation travel and care packages for families while their babies are in the neonatal intensive care units.
IPB also run workshops on first aid, breastfeeding / expressing, art therapy and sensory issues.
“Their Facebook page is especially a big help,” said Dara.
For further details on IPB visit www.irishprematurebabies.com.