Hannah-Ruth was born 16 weeks premature in Dunedin Hospital, where together with Mum Megan and Dad Josh, she spent the next 97 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Thanks to her unstoppable will to survive and all the wonderful staff, the family have finally been discharged and we're so stoked to see that they're going to have their first Christmas together at home! To share a little hope for others going through a neonatal journey, Megan and Josh have generously opened up their hearts to tell their story below.
“ The 24th of August 2016 is a day we will never forget. It is the day our precious baby girl arrived into this world and changed our lives forever. It wasn’t just the fact that we were having our first child but the fact that she was 16 weeks early.
Hannah-Ruth was due in the middle of December not in August – 4 months early, weighing just 650 grams (slightly more than a pound of butter). The journey that we have gone through has changed us and shaped who we are as a couple and a family.
The first wee while in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) was a real blur for us. Hours became days, days became weeks and weeks have become months. We spent a total of 97 days in NICU. It was a real whirlwind of emotions, there was uncertainty around the chance of Hannah-Ruth’s survival and she has had a real roller-coaster of a ride since day one.
She’s had her good days and she’s had her bad days. As her parents, it’s been a real journey for us also, it’s just not normal for a new parent or any parent to walk into a hospital room and see the curtains pulled and behind them are a team of doctors and nurses working on your daughter trying to resuscitate her because she’s stopped breathing. It is a sight that we will never forget. It is really hard being the parents and feeling like we can’t do anything.
There was however, some small things we could do that have made a huge difference in the development and growth of Hannah-Ruth. Megan spent endless hours hooked up to a breast pump and expressed non-stop so that Hannah-Ruth could be fed breast milk and she also spent a lot of time teaching her how to breast feed.
Another thing that we did was skin to skin or kangaroo cuddles. This was very key to Hannah-Ruth’s growth, development and early discharge home. Both of us would go in and have hours of cuddle time with her on our chest every day. It was a big commitment but one we will never regret.
Our journey though NICU was full of drama and scary unknowns. Hannah-Ruth has had to have many IV lines, stomach tubes, a chest drain, blood transfusions, ventilators, CPAP and many other procedures. There was a time for the first couple of weeks we couldn’t even hold her. We couldn’t hear her cry because of all the tubes she had. Now that we are home, when she cries we rejoice knowing that her lungs are working well, when she’s unsettled and wants to be held we remember the times we couldn’t hold her because she was so fragile.
We never want to take her life for granted. She has had many prayers prayed over her and it has been amazing seeing them being answered. We were hoping to be home before Christmas but with a few setbacks early on in Hannah-Ruth’s life the medical team started to really doubt that we would get out before then. It’s an absolute miracle to be home so early and are looking forward to having Christmas together at home as a family.
The dramas didn’t finish when we left the hospital. On our first night home while Megan was feeding Hannah-Ruth, she stopped breathing and turned purple. Josh had to do mouth to mouth on her to get her breathing again and Megan called for help. We had an ambulance and a fire truck come to assist us and take Hannah-Ruth back to hospital for a night.
Initially we took to Facebook to keep family and friends updated about Hannah-Ruth’s progress, detailing our rollercoaster ride in NICU. Before long our Facebook page ‘The Journey of Hannah-Ruth’ was being followed and viewed by thousands of people and now our journey has prompted other parents of premature babies to reach out, bringing more awareness to premature birth. It has been amazing to be able to encourage people who are going through a hard time, to let them know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel is massive.
Going through this required heaps of support. There is no way we could have done it without the support and help of others and we are very grateful for that. We have family, friends, church community and work mates who have been amazing at helping us through providing meals and helping out around the house so we could focus on Hannah-Ruth. We are immensely thankful that we live a country that we have access to such amazing healthcare. The doctors and nurses were amazing and we are so grateful to each and every one of them and the hard work that they put in for us and our daughter.
We are also very grateful for the support of The Neonatal Trust New Zealand. It has been great hearing other stories of parents who have gone through something similar and knowing that there is hope. While doing skin to skin we used one of the La Z Boys that they donated, which was such a blessing and we are very thankful to them and everyone who supports the Trust. The work they do is amazing!
We'll be thinking of families spending their Christmas in NICU as for us it was a very real possibility, and something very close to our hearts. "
~ Megan, Josh and Hannah-Ruth
To learn more about the The Neonatal Trust and support them to take care of more families like Hannah-Ruth’s through the roller-coaster ride of a neonatal journey, check them out and give your 1%.