Mum's pledge to help hospital that saved her baby's life

PUBLISHED: 11:00 16 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:45 06 July 2010

Stephen Pullinger

Alison Baxter was counting her blessings that she was breezing through pregnancy - 'no sickness or anything' - and was not even unduly concerned by the few twinges she began experiencing at 29 weeks.

Alison Baxter was counting her blessings that she was breezing through pregnancy - “no sickness or anything” - and was not even unduly concerned by the few twinges she began experiencing at 29 weeks.

“The last thing I thought was that I was in labour and even when I went to the hospital for a check-up after two days of pain, they told me they thought it was just ligaments stretching,” she recalled.

However, the pain quickly got worse and by 4am that night she was back in Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital (JPH) to give birth nearly 11 weeks early; the following five days of labour becoming an emotional haze.

When her first child was finally born, weighing just 3lb 7oz, she was unable to breathe unaided and was rushed off to the neonatal unit before Miss Baxter, 22, or her partner Neil Reid, 24, could even see her, let alone hold her.

“We could not hold her for 24 hours and did not even get to see her for three or four hours,” she said.

However, despite being warned of the risk of brain damage or deafness in such a premature baby, the story had a happy ending when little Lily was allowed home to Victoria Road, Lowestoft, five-and-a-half weeks later.

Eleven months on, Lily is a normal, healthy child and the only physical legacy of that emotional rollercoaster at the time of her birth is that she is still 50pc smaller than average.

Now Miss Baxter and Mr Reid, a teacher at Lowestoft's Benjamin Britten High School, have pledged to show their gratitude to hospital staff by staging a sponsored walk in aid of the neonatal units at both the JPH and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The 30-mile walk on April 10 will start outside the JPH at 8.30am and follow large parts of the broadland footpath, the Wherryman's Way, to finish outside the hospital in Norwich.

The couple will be joined by family and friends, including Adam Pimble, whose wife Kerry gave birth to their premature baby Layla in the JPH at the same time.

Appealing for other parents to join them on the walk, or to sponsor them, Miss Baxter said: “We were really fortunate to have that unit so close to us.

“Lily would not have survived without it, and the staff were so good in supporting us, answering all our questions and easing our worries.”

Miss Baxter also feels an attachment to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital because her mother Kay gave birth prematurely to her brother Cameron there six years ago.

She said: “Although he had a chromosome disorder and sadly died at eight months, we would not have had him even for that time without the hospital.”

To pledge sponsorship or to volunteer to take part in the walk, call Miss Baxter on 01502 508320.

Between 200 and 220 premature babies, weighing as little as 1lb, are delivered by the neonatal unit at the JPH each year.

The unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University is the busiest in the region and looks after more than 700 babies a year.

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