Baby born at 22 weeks back home after fighting series of illnesses

Home at last, the baby born at 22 weeks weighing just 1lb after she fought off a string of infections, a bleed on the brain and other life-threatening problems

  • Doctors warned Lilly Menear’s parents to prepare for worst when she was born 
  • Yet five months later she’s fought off multiple infections and a bleed on the brain
  • Parents Tayla, 26, and Shane, 29, were not allowed to hold her for the first month
  • Now she is finally make her first journey back home to meet the family 

When she was born four months early and weighing the same as a small bag of sugar, doctors warned Lilly Menear’s parents to prepare for the worst.

But five months later she has fought off a string of infections, a bleed on the brain and other life-threatening problems to be allowed home.

She was so fragile that her parents, Tayla Menear, 26, and Shane Rumbles, 29, were not allowed to hold her for the first month.

Lilly’s survival after being born at 22 weeks and two days will fuel the debate about the 24-week cut-off date for abortions.

Miss Menear yesterday said staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital told her they had previously seen only one other baby survive at 22 weeks.

When she was born four months early and weighing the same as a small bag of sugar, doctors warned Lilly Menear’s mother Tayla to prepare for the worst

She added: ‘I have since come across other cases and now want people to know if they go into labour at 22 weeks not to feel hopeless. There is always a chance.’

Miss Menear, 26, of Norwich, was 21 weeks and four days into her pregnancy when she was admitted to hospital with a suspected infection and broken waters. Lilly arrived a few days later on December 9, weighing 1lb 2oz (511g), and her round-the-clock care began immediately.

She was initially stabilised by a senior neonatal team who put a tiny tube in her airway to help her breathe. She was transferred to neonatal intensive care where she spent seven weeks on a ventilator.

Lilly’s survival after being born at 22 weeks and two days will fuel the debate about the 24-week cut-off date for abortions

During her stay in hospital she had three infections which were treated with antibiotics, a gut obstruction caused by curdled milk, a bleed on the brain and a distended intestine which required major surgery at three months. However, doctors say they are positive about her future.

Her mother said: ‘We took each day as it came. Each improvement was a sign that she was becoming more comfortable and settled. She reacts to my voice and will open her eyes when I come in and talk to her. She gives me big beautiful smiles.’

Describing the first time she held her tiny daughter, she said: ‘I was far too excited to feel scared.’

The fight for survival also coincided with the coronavirus outbreak, which meant the parents were not allowed to visit at the same time.

But on Tuesday they were told they could finally take her home. ‘It was complete disbelief,’ said Miss Menear. ‘For the first few months of Lilly’s life no one knew if we would ever reach the point of going home as a family.’

Little Lilly was so fragile that her parents, Tayla Menear, 26, and Shane Rumbles, 29, were not allowed to hold her for the first month

Lilly’s fight for survival also coincided with the coronavirus outbreak, which meant the parents were not allowed to visit at the same time

Consultant neonatologist Dr Priya Muthukumar said: ‘We know babies born so prematurely are at higher risk of future developmental issues. Nevertheless, we are reasonably optimistic for Lilly because her brain scans while in the neonatal unit have been reassuring and she has made very encouraging progress.’

Official guidelines dating from 2008 included a presumption that life-saving treatment should not be offered to a baby born before 23 weeks. 

But, following an improvement in survival rates, the British Association of Perinatal Medicine announced in October that doctors should attempt to save those born after 22 weeks.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said each case was ‘looked at on its own merits’.

Those born before 22 weeks are thought to have little chance of survival because their lungs, heart and brain are so poorly developed. The world’s youngest survivor is James Elgin Gill, born in Canada in 1987, at 21 weeks and five days.

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