A baby who defied all odds after she was born weighing just 1lb 15oz will celebrate her first birthday and will spend Father’s Day outside hospital with her proud dad.
Sophie O’Kane was born premature at 25 weeks and was so fragile that her heartbroken parents were not even able to touch or hold her.
The situation was so dire that her father, Michael, 34, was convinced she would die despite the best efforts of intensive care staff.
But now the little tot has defied the odds to celebrate her first birthday and will spend Father’s Day outside hospital with her dad, mum Ali and brother Finn.
Michael, an optician from Edinburgh, told of the gruelling journey his family had been through since last year.
He said: “I was testing a child’s eyes the day my life was turned upside down.
“A colleague came to the door and asked for a private word – I assumed he wanted advice on a difficult ophthalmic condition so I was shocked to be told there was a family emergency.
“My wife Ali, then 24 weeks pregnant, was bleeding and needed to go to hospital urgently.
“The message started to sink in as I rushed home to collect my wife and take her to the hospital for scans – we were both terrified as we knew the implications.”
“After some time in hospital Ali was allowed home. But we remained worried.
“A few days later I got a call from Ali who was in a panic – she was crying and told me her waters had broken. I was shopping but just dropped my basket and ran to the car.
“The hospital staff were amazing. Because of the intensity of the situation and risks involved with having such a premature baby, they put Ali in a separate room so I could be with her. We talked, cried and hugged.”
“At 7.06am on June 12 our daughter Sophie Alison O’Kane was born – looking tiny but perfect at just 1lb 15oz.
“Because she needed help to breathe we weren’t able to cuddle or even touch her.
“She was placed in a special plastic bag to insulate her, because the fat within the skin hadn’t yet formed and she would have lost too much heat to survive.”
Sophie was then taken to the neonatal ward to be looked after by specialists and was put on a ventilator.
Medicine was administered directly into her umbilical cord via intravenous lines and she was fed via a method called TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition).
Sophie remained in neonatal intensive care for just over seven weeks, then a high-dependency unit for four weeks, followed by the special care unit for two weeks.
Because Sophie was born before her lungs had formed properly she needed special medicines to allow the tissues to absorb oxygen and needed to be ventilated.
It caused scarring of her lungs, ultimately causing chronic lung disease.
Sophie wasn’t absorbing enough oxygen for her needs, so doctors raised the concentration of oxygen she was receiving and she needed a few blood transfusions.
Michael added: “Sophie is now almost a year old. She came home on oxygen but at present doesn’t require it, which we’re delighted with.
“She is smiling and cooing and seems to be developing well. She will have regular reviews at the developmental clinic over the next two years to make sure her development stays on track.”
Michael hasn’t forgotten the role charity Simpsons Special Care Babies played in his daughter’s recovery.
And now he and his work colleagues from Specsavers have vowed to give £3,800 from the firm’s charity fund to pay for a Vapotherm as a way of saying thanks.
An identical machine at the Simpsons Intensive Care Unit at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary played a vital role in Sophie’s amazing recovery.
Michael said: “Simpsons Special Care Babies is a fantastic charity which is on our doorstep and I can personally vouch for the incredible work it carries out.
“We sometimes take the NHS for granted but I have to say the debt of gratitude you feel is massive when someone takes such good care of you in an impossible, overwhelming situation.
“Staff took my infant daughter, who I was sure would die, and counselled my wife and I, guided us, befriended us and rescued our child.
“I will always be grateful to the neonatal unit and its staff and see them as the sole reason we are able to say we have a daughter.”
Simpsons Special Care Babies was set up in the 1980s by parents and friends who had babies in the Simpsons Intensive Care Unit, and remains volunteer-run.
The charity is dedicated to supporting the care of premature or sick newborn babies and their parents within the ERI.
Simpsons secretary Gill Mitchell said: “We were overwhelmed when Michael got in touch.
“This charity relies on donations and is run by a team of people who value the incredible work of the unit’s staff, who give help and hope to families.
“It’s great to hear this kind of praise for the unit and we extend our thanks to Specsavers for this thoughtful and generous contribution.”