A premature baby born last Christmas has finally made it home for this year’s festivities – after spending her first year fighting for life in hospital.
Little Faith Chamberlain weighed just 1lb 15oz when she was born 14 weeks early on December 29 last year and was so tiny she could be cradled in one hand.
She was given a 50 per cent chance of survival because she was so weak and spent months in intensive care.
Parents Kirsty Utting and Clayton Chamberlain were not even able to take her for a short walk outside the ward until she was eight months old.
But the delighted couple have finally been allowed to bring her home – just in time for Christmas.
Kirsty, 22, of Emersons Green, South Glos., said: “She is a Christmas miracle and we’ve got a huge party planned for her first birthday next week.
“We are massively lucky and to be able to get her home in time for Christmas is amazing.”
Kirsty’s waters broke at 21 weeks and four days for no obvious reason but hospital staff managed to delay labour until she was 26 weeks into her pregnancy.
Every day she stayed in the womb she got stronger and her risk of developing dangerous conditions grew smaller.
Luckily, she avoided any significant brain damage and has needed only one operation, to insert a feeding tube into her stomach.
Clayton, 35, said: “When we were told she could come home we were ecstatic, I must have cried five or six times and I don’t often do that.
“The first few days after she was born were terrifying, we didn’t know what would happen from one day to the next.
“She’s a fighter like us – Kirsty is a judo black belt and I’m a karate black belt and we met via Brasilian Ju Jitsu.
“We always believed she would come home; we don’t think ‘what if” but that she will get through – if you think too much about it, you do get quite emotional.
“We have stayed really positive.”
Faith still has a hole in her heart, suffers from chronic lung disease, has dangerously high blood pressure, is tube fed and relies on oxygen.
But Kirsty and Clayton have learned how to use their daughter’s ventilator, which keeps her alive at night, and are determined to enjoy the festivities.
Faith now weighs 16lbs and it is hoped she will be able to come off the ventilator when she’s around two, and will stop needing oxygen around the age of four.
A child’s lungs can keep developing until they are seven years old, and it is hoped that one day Faith’s will be strong enough to provide for her without help.
Self-employed decorator Clayton, who also has a three-year-old son called Leo, said: “I just cried with happiness when doctors said she could come home.
“Her ventilator has saved her life and we are overjoyed.
“We don’t know anything for sure but we think she will live a normal life. She’ll never be a top athlete but that’s fine.
“She’s come so far already from being born so small and we are really grateful to all the doctors who treated her.”
He added that the staff at Bristol Children’s Hospital and Southmead Hospital, Bristol, have been incredible.
The family is now supported by nurses from Sirona, a nursing and psychology service which helps children with life-limiting illnesses to be cared for at home.
Sarah Jones is the nurse who has worked with the family since before Faith was discharged from Bristol Children’s Hospital.
Sarah said: “Her parents have been fantastic. They are going to have an amazing Christmas.”