When Leanne and Chris Duffield found out they were expecting their fifth child, they couldn’t be happier. But their 20-week-scan brought some bad news. The couple was told that there was no amniotic fluid around their baby. Doctors were unable to determine what caused the lack of fluid and they were told their child could have severe abnormalities.
A week later the fetal medicine unit at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff offered Leanne an abortion. They told Leanne that a lack of amniotic fluid usually means the baby has suffered abnormalities that would make survival impossible. Later they learned that many babies in similar situations are considered “incompatible with life.”
At 23-weeks Leanne’s water broke. She said, “When we had been for the scan there was no fluid at all. But when my waters broke at 23 weeks it was just like it was with the others. It was a gush and I couldn’t understand.” Since babies at 23-weeks have a slim chance of survival, the expected Leanne to deliver a dead baby. Leanne said, “They thought I would deliver the baby and we had the bereavement midwife come and talk to us. It was a bit overwhelming.”
Leanne’s doctors were concerned that her child’s lungs were too small to function on their own or even strong enough for medics to ventilate. However, Leanne’s labor did not progress as quickly as doctor’s projected and her baby kept growing inside her. As she neared 24-weeks, she was transferred to Singleton Hospital in Swansea where she was put on bed rest and received steroid injections to help diminish the severity of Willow’s lung problems.
On January 18th, Leanne suffered a placental abruption, which is when the placenta comes away from the inside of the womb. This can be fatal for both the mother and the child. However, Leanne survived and doctors delivered her daughter, who they named Willow, via emergency caesarean section. She weighed a tiny 2lbs and 6oz and was immediately put in a special care baby unit.
Willow spent almost 100 days in the hospital after her birth, but in April she was allowed to go home with her parents. While she is currently using an oxygen tank at night, doctors believe the only long-term problems Willow will have is asthma. And eventually, she won’t need the assistance of an oxygen tank at all.
Leanne concluded, “The amount of hospital appointments is getting less and less. And at the moment she is hitting all the targets she should be. With premature babies they should have caught up with their peers by two years. We call her the happy wheezer and considering what she has been through, she is so happy.” The couple says Willow is their miracle baby.
Now, Leanne and her husband are fundraising for a support group set up by the special care baby nurses who helped Willow until she was well enough to go home with oxygen to support her breathing.