Tiny Darcie is dwarfed by her father’s hand in this photo. Born at just 22 weeks – hardly more than halfway through a normal pregnancy – and weighing only 14oz, the little girl’s chances of survival were slim. But she has battled the odds to pull through and is now a smiling, bouncing eight-month-old.
Parents Claire Elwin and Dean Blakely described how their little ‘miracle’ made it – with a large amount of help from doctors and nurses at two hospitals.
It hasn’t been all plain sailing, though. Darcie has had a heart operation and stopped breathing three times, including once when her ‘petrified’ mother had to resuscitate her.
Care assistant Miss Elwin, 37, from Havant in Hampshire, did not even know she was pregnant until a week before the birth, when Mr Blakely took her to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth after she began bleeding heavily.
Miss Elwin said: ‘They did an emergency scan and they found the baby was perfectly all right, but I had a placental node that was bleeding.’
After four days of observation, she was discharged – only to return two days later when the bleeding returned. Hours later, Darcie was born – two weeks before the legal abortion limit of 24 weeks – and so small that Miss Elwin’s waters didn’t break.
She said: ‘She was “born in the bag” but when the doctors took her out she tried to breathe. The consultant said, “all the time she is fighting, we will fight with her”. And that’s exactly what they did.’
Claire Elwin and Dean Blakely with their daughter. Darcie has had a heart operation and stopped breathing three times, including once when her ‘petrified’ mother had to resuscitate her
Darcie was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit and it was six hours before Miss Elwin got to see her.
She said: ‘It was busy and frightening, and we were confronted by a baby who was no bigger than my hand. It was a scary, scary moment. To touch her was like touching a baby bird.’ Darcie was so small she was translucent.
From the birth last July until mid-November, Darcie stayed in the unit, with her parents visiting every day, watching her slowly gain in body weight and strength.
But Miss Elwin said: ‘The possibility of losing her was always there, like a knife hanging over our heads.’
In September, Darcie underwent an operation at Southampton Hospital to close a heart duct, which went well. But they experienced a major scare just days after she was finally allowed home, when she stopped breathing and turned ‘pure white’. ‘I was absolutely petrified,’ Miss Elwin said. ‘She was making no effort to breathe at all.’Thankfully the couple had been given expert CPR training.Darcie has battled the odds to pull through and is now a smiling, bouncing eight-month-old
‘My mind went completely blank and I had to step out of myself and think, “What was I taught?” ’ she said. ‘I did mouth-to-mouth for what felt like for ever, although really the ambulance only took a few minutes. When it was all done and she was taken out of my hands, I collapsed on the floor in a big heap.’ Darcie had two other ‘respiratory arrests’ in hospital, with staff keeping her alive.
Carpenter Mr Blakely, 45, said: ‘She is a total miracle.’
Dr Tim Scorrer, consultant neonatologist at the Queen Alexandra, said: ‘One of the most enjoyable aspects of our job is to follow up infants like Darcie and see them progressing over time.’
Miss Elwin said she wanted the abortion limit to be reduced from 24 weeks, adding: ‘It is very frightening to think that Darcie was born at that age – and has survived and recovered well – and yet babies are terminated at 23 weeks.’