Two-year-old Clara Healy will light up a children’s hospital this week and Santa could not have a braver little helper.
Watching as she turns on the Christmas lights at the Royal Hospital for Children, in Glasgow, will be the neonatal team that saved her life and supported her parents Sophie and Corey as the tiny fighter battled through her first six months.
Miracle baby Clara was born 16 weeks premature in March 2017, weighing 1lb 3oz.
She was delivered by emergency caesarean after her mum Sophie’s waters broke at 23 weeks and she contracted septicaemia.
Clara was so tiny her skin was translucent, her eyes were fused shut and her lungs were the size of Sophie’s pinky nail.
At the Neonatal Unit at the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital, Clara received lifesaving care.
“Nurses said that premature babies usually follow a pattern, but Clara was a little more complex, they hadn’t had a baby like her before. She writes her own rules,”said Sophie.
“I was terrified but it was reassuring to know they could save such tiny babies.”
A high risk of infection meant it was three weeks before Sophie could hold her baby.
“When they finally put her on my chest, even with all the wires and machines beeping, it was such a magical feeling.”
Clara was diagnosed with chronic lung disease and was kept on a ventilator for five months. At six weeks old, though, her lungs collapsed and her parents were told to prepare for the worst.
Sophie said: “Somehow she pulled through. She’s a fighter.”
Clara also struggled to gain weight. Her blood sugars spiked, she became resistant to insulin and required 17 blood transfusions throughout her care.
At four months, she weighed just 2lb and staff became increasingly concerned. But Clara continued to defy the odds.
“Within two days her blood sugars went down and she started gaining weight. She is a miracle,” added Sophie.
Sophie and Corey visited their daughter every day, and got through the darkest moments with the support of the neonatal staff.
“In a world where no one else knows how bad your child is doing, the nurses are the only people you can confide in. They kept us sane.”
At five-and-a-half months, Clara weighed 9lb and was well enough for Sophie and Corey to take her home to Cumbernauld.
Today, she’s a happy, bubbly two-year-old. And she took her first steps in July this year when she stepped over the finish line of the Oor Wullie’s BIG Walk in Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow, holding her mum and dad’s hands.
“She is so happy and kind,” added her proud mum.
“Like many premature babies, Clara writes her own rules when it comes to milestones.
“She’s starting to walk independently and is chattering and babbling.
“We are so lucky to have her.”
Thousands of babies like Clara are cared for in the neonatal units at the Royal Hospital for Children and the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital every year.
The Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity’s neonatal appeal aims to raise £250,000 to purchase vital equipment, including upgrades of the incubators and ventilators that helped keep Clara alive.
Her parents say it’s down to the neonatal staff that Clara is here today.
Sophie added: “They have done so much for us. They deserve the world.”
To support the neonatal appeal, visit GlasgowChildrensHospital Charity.org