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Gabe born on 22 August 2011 (27 weeks, 905 grams, dropped to just 750 grams)

We had been married for 14 years and just made a huge lifestyle adjustment by moving from Gauteng to Ceres in the Western Cape, when we decided to get pregnant. I am 38 years old and a diabetic, so the time was running out.  After trying for almost two years we’d been to see the fertility specialist and were told that the process could take up to two years, but our little miracle came about on the first round of Clomid!!

At 27 weeks pregnant I was just adjusting to being pregnant and had been feeling jellybean move for about two weeks.  I had a relatively easy pregnancy but for the past two weeks had been feeling nauseas with strange stomach cramps. My house doctor admitted me but after a week decided we needed to get to my gynae in Cape Town.  On 22 August 2011 we drove to CPT and strangely I was feeling a bit better. We saw Dr. McPherson and she admitted me to 2 Military Hospital.  At about 16h00 I told hubby to go to our friends for the evening in order to miss the traffic and it was a short while after that when my life changed dramatically! A couple of doctors came into my room and told me that I have HELLP syndrome and that baby needed to be delivered urgently. My first thought was that if it is possible for my baby to survive at 27 weeks, is it even viable???

After a scan it was established that baby’s weight was 880 grams and we were transferred to Groote Schuur hospital where the neonatal unit is equipped to deal with such small premature babies.  Gabriël Jacobus le Roux (Gabe) was delivered by emergencies C-Section at 23h57 and weighed 905 grams.   With this joyous moment started a two and a half month emotional rollercoaster!

This is the very first photos taken of Gabe just after his birth.  The one above next to his Dad’s first and the one below next to the hand of one of the theatre staff.

The first time I saw my baby was so exiting and terrifying at the same time (picture below) This little  body surrounded by so many pipes and machines evoked such mixed feelings.  I just wanted to pick up my little man but it was not possible.  My husband had spent the first 48 hours next to Gabe’s bed and refused to leave.  The head of the neonatology spoke to us and we were told not to have any hopes or expectations as to the survival of our little boy.  The statistics show that white, male very premature babies have a low survival rate.  Together with the many complications that extreme low birth weight premmies experience the outlook was grim.

A friend of mine nick named him Braveheart and for sure that is his legacy.  NICU is no joke and to the parents that spend day after day after day there it becomes a prison so secluded from the outside world and a place where all your love is contained in one small little person! A couple of times I thought to myself that it is absolutely impossible to carry on doing this for one more day.

In hindsight we really had it relatively easy – Gabe had apnoea, which resolved itself eventually.  His ROP and hearing scans was good.

We had a couple of scares for infection but three times the tests came back negative.  He never had a brain bleed nor NEC. The worst two situations was related to the apnea when on the first occasion as they extubated him, he crashed and my hubby stood by as he was resuscitated and again just after his ROP scan (he’d been on room air for just 12 hours) he crashed and I stood watching as he was once again resuscitated.  Both times were an extreme shock but the relief and thankfulness of him pulling through is beyond description.

We recently had another scare when at a follow up doctor’s visits we were referred to have a CT scan as his head circumference was a bit big.  He was diagnosed with extra ventricular hydrocephalus. It is a condition where additional fluid collects between the brain and skull and normally it is associated with pressure on the brain which requires surgery.  We once again were blessed that there was no pressure and that the extra fluid was causing no harm!  Gabe has a slightly larger head for now but the problem will start resolving itself in about a years time when the cells around his brain is mature enough to absorb the extra fluid.

We spent 10 weeks in NICU at Groote Schuur hospital where the doctors and staff were absolutely awesome!! It was the most incredible and scary rollercoaster ride of my life.  The value of the support of family, friend and even strangers is incredible! The information and support from the facebook groups such as Neonatal Buddies and Little Miracles was amazing. Facebook told out whole story to our family and friends that are far away and it is so great to put pictures of the little man on! I would not have been able to make this journey without my husband, parents and in-laws.  After 16 years of marriage I got to know a husband that is the most devoted father and would do anything for me and his son.

Our story is one of hope and life, one that defied the odds and one that shows that there is light at the end of the NICU tunnel!!

Below is a piece that was posted on Facebook a couple of days ago and it describes by feelings so accurately:

He passes a name to an angel and smiles. "Give her a premmie." 
The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy." 
"Exactly," smiles God. "Could I give a premature baby a mother who knows no laughter? That would be cruel." 
"But does she have the patience?" asks the angel. 
"I don't want her to have too much patience, or she'll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she'll handle it. 
I watched her today. 
She has that sense of self and independence so rare and so necessary in a mother. 
You see, the child I'm going to give her has a world of its own. 
She has to make it live in her world, and that's not going to be easy." 
"But Lord, I don't think she even believes in you." 
God smiles. "No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just the right amount of selfishness." 
The angel gasps, "Selfishness?! Is that a virtue?" 
God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. 
She doesn't know it yet, but she is to be envied. 
She will never take for granted a spoken word. 
She will never consider a step ordinary. 
When her child says 'mama' for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it. 
I will permit her to see clearly the things I see – ignorance, cruelty, prejudice – and allow her to rise above them. 
She will never be alone.

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