Miracle baby Otis saves mum's life with a cuddle

Alex Durrant on the ICU ward with baby Otis

Alex Durrant on the ICU ward with baby Otis - Credit: Alex and Adam Durrant

He is the tiny miracle baby whose cuddles made all the difference to his desperately-ill mum as she lay battling Covid in a Norwich Intensive Care Unit.

Little Otis Durrant was brought to see Mum Alex, 29, as she prepared for being put into an induced coma and then on a ventilator after failing to respond to Covid treatment.

But it turned out that the medicine that Alex needed was wrapped up in a blanket, and after 20 minutes with her little boy – who she named from her ICU bed – she began to get better.

Adam, Otis and Alex Durrant 

Adam, Otis and Alex Durrant - Credit: Lisa and Neil

Now 16 months old, Otis – who was born 10 weeks early – is thriving, and recently attended his parents’ wedding…along with three surprise guests, the nurses who helped Alex pull through when she was fighting for her life.

At the Durrants’ Southwood Hall wedding in March, nurses Hollie, Enola and Polly had an emotional reunion with Alex after being secretly invited by new husband Adam.

Watch a video of Alex being surprised on her wedding day by some of the nurses who helped save her life here.

Alex Durrant and three of the nursing team that helped her in ICU 

Alex Durrant and three of the nursing team that helped her in ICU - Credit: Lisa and Neil

Alex said: “We booked the wedding because we’d been trying for a baby and it wasn’t happening, so we thought we’d plan the wedding and then think about children afterwards – three months later, I was pregnant with Otis!”

When she was 28 weeks pregnant, Alex, who works for a GP surgery, started to feel unwell.

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A routine lateral flow test for work showed a positive result which was confirmed by a PCR.

“At that point, the advice for pregnant women was to not have the Covid vaccine – it changed a day or two after I had Otis, but it was too late for me.”

Staying at her parents’ house in Spixworth while hers and Adam’s new home was built in Rackheath, Adam set up camp in the living room.

“We’d bought a baby monitor and so it was set up in our room so that we could talk to each other,” laughed Alex, “instead of checking on a baby, they were checking on me!”

Adam said: “She was coughing up blood at one point. I could only watch on the monitor. It was so awful. I just wanted to go in and give her a cuddle.”

A blood oxygen monitor was brought in to check that Alex’s levels were safe.

“They told me that if the level went below 92 for more than an hour to ring 111 – on January 31, it was around 90 per cent and her toes were a strange grey colour,” he said.

Alex was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital’s A&E department.

“I had to wait in the car because I wasn’t allowed in with her but the staff were so good,” said Adam, “when she reached the door of A&E they just wrapped their arms around her and got her inside. It was the first time she’d touched anyone for days.”

Given blood thinning injections to ensure there was no clot, Alex was allowed home.

By Wednesday, February 2, her blood oxygen levels were 74 – a second check showed they were dropping even lower and the couple called for help.

“When the paramedic spoke to me on the phone, he asked me where the nearest defibrillator was – I told them that it was a five-minute drive away. He said someone was on their way and would be with us in 10 minutes,” said Adam.

“The ambulance took her away and I couldn’t be with her. Normally, I’d have been right by her side, but I wasn’t allowed and all I could remember is what they’d said about the defibrillator.

Otis Durrant, who was born 10 weeks early at the NNUH 

Otis Durrant, who was born 10 weeks early at the NNUH - Credit: Alex and Adam Durrant

“We didn’t hear anything for more than three hours and then the phone rang: I knew there was a chance that when I answered that call, they’d tell me Alex was gone.”

At hospital, Alex’s condition improved: she was taken to a Covid ward where everyone else was on a ventilator breathing on their behalf.

Needing urgent treatment that was impossible while she was still pregnant, a Caesarean was booked – Alex was just over 30 weeks pregnant.

“I just panicked,” said Alex, “I was so frightened. Was the baby old enough to be born? I video-called Adam and said: ‘we’re going to have a baby tomorrow…’ “

Adam takes up the story: “I spent the begging the hospital to let me up there to be with Alex and then when the morning came there was snow outside and I was desperately trying to get my car warmed up in case they said I could go.”

But it was decided that it was too risky for Adam to attend, so Alex went into her operation on February 9, 2021, with a nurse by her side instead.

“I said to her, you are going to have to be my stand-in!” said Alex.

Newborn Otis Durrant in his father Adam's hands

Newborn Otis Durrant in his father Adam's hands - Credit: Adam and Alex Durrant

“She was holding my hand and stroking my hair as they pulled the baby out – they told me he wasn’t going to cry and that I shouldn’t worry, but he did cry just once and everyone cheered!”

Her newborn son was passed to her and she was able to reach out with her finger to stroke his cheek – weighing 3lb 6oz, Alex had just enough time to notice he looked like her brother.

Still Covid positive, Alex returned to the intensive care unit and her son was taken to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit: they had spent just five minutes together.

She was without her baby and couldn’t see Adam or her family, but nursing staff at the NNUH offered her endless love and support, sometimes working extra hours to stay by her side as her body struggled to fight the virus.

Otis Durrant who was born 10 weeks early at the NNUH

Otis Durrant who was born 10 weeks early at the NNUH - Credit: Alex and Adam Durrant

“I couldn’t feed myself or drink on my own, I’d had all the drugs I could have but I was going downhill instead of getting better,” said Alex, “I had pneumonia, a pulmonary embolism and I’d just had a C-section, I felt like I was dying.”

Three days after giving birth, Alex experienced what she calls Black Friday: recalling the events of that day still brings tears to her eyes.

“The doctors told Alex that she wasn’t getting better and that the decision had been made that she needed to go on a ventilator and that she’d be put in a coma the next day if there was no improvement,” said Adam, “it was the worst news.”

In light of the situation unfolding, NICU made the unusual decision to allow Alex and Adam’s newborn son to make a visit to his mother’s side room.

“Later, the nurses told me that it was because so many people thought I wouldn’t make it,” said Alex, “I hadn’t wanted to name him until I saw him, but I wanted to know that if I went on a ventilator, I’d go in knowing what my little boy was called.”

Then something incredible happened.

After 20 minutes with her baby, Alex began to rally. Her oxygen levels improved and her heart rate slowed, the medicine she’d so desperately needed proving to be a visit from her baby: little Otis.

The next day, Alex’s ventilator remained unused.

“I knew that if I wanted to see Otis again, I needed to get better. So I got better,” Alex said.

By now Adam had tested positive for Covid and was unable to visit Otis in NICU – the nursing team became Alex’s lifeline and her surrogate family.

“I found it so hard with Otis being on the opposite side of the hospital and Adam unable to see him. I felt so guilty that he was alone when I should have been with him,” said Alex.

“But the team in NICU were so lovely with him, they kept a diary of what he did, and I saw him on video and then I had so many wonderful nurses who just kept me sane.”

One, Tanya, became her ‘hospital mum’ in lieu of parents while others, including Hollie, Enola and Polly, gave their full support and encouraged Alex to fight to get better.

The first time Alex, Adam and Otis met together at the NNUH

The first time Alex, Adam and Otis met together at the NNUH - Credit: Adam and Alex Durrant

On February 24, the family were together for the first time: mum, dad and Otis: “I just cried, and cried, I was so happy. I kept thanking the nurses, telling them they had no idea how much seeing Adam and Otis together meant to me,” said Alex.

Still breathless and requiring physiotherapy after more than four weeks in hospital, Alex was allowed home where she found that “everything took 10 times longer than it had before I was ill”.

Baby Otis with parents Alex and Adam Durrant at the NNUH

Baby Otis with parents Alex and Adam Durrant at the NNUH - Credit: Alex and Adam Durrant

Otis joined his family on March 19, almost a month before his April 18 due date.

“It still feels very strange when I think what happened and when people tell me just how serious it was because I can’t remember too much,” said Alex.

“I’m only now coming to terms with the fact that I will never be the same as I was before Covid, but having Otis gave me the strength to keep going when I didn’t think I could.”

Otis Durrant

Otis Durrant - Credit: Adam and Alex Durrant

Otis is now a fun-loving cheeky, smiley toddler who loves to run away with the TV remote control, and was the guest of honour at his parents’ pre-Covid booked wedding.

“Alex often talked about the nurses who had helped her so much and been her hospital family when she was completely alone and frightened and I thought how lovely it would be if I could surprise her by inviting them to our wedding,” said Adam.

Hollie, Enola and Polly from the NNUH surprising Alex Durrant on her wedding day

Hollie, Enola and Polly from the NNUH surprising Alex Durrant on her wedding day - Credit: Lisa and Neil

He managed to find one of the nurses who had helped Alex on Instagram who then asked her colleagues if they could attend the March wedding: only Tanya was unable to attend.

“Alex does love to ruin surprises, though,” laughed Adam, “so when she tried to invite the nurses too, I had to ask them to tell her they couldn’t come!”

Only Adam, wedding photographers Lisa and Neil Plumb of lisaandneil.co.uk and staff at the venue were aware of the special guests, who arrived shortly after the wedding.

Hollie, Enola and Polly from the NNUH surprising Alex Durrant on her wedding day

Hollie, Enola and Polly from the NNUH surprising Alex Durrant on her wedding day - Credit: Lisa and Neil

As Adam called the room to attention, he told his new wife he had a surprise for her and to keep facing him: then nursing staff Hollie, Enola and Polly tapped her on the shoulder.

“The whole room erupted into applause when they realised who they were and so many people burst into tears including, of course, Alex!” Adam said.

Alex said that seeing three of the faces who helped her pull through the most difficult month of her life was emotional and joyful: “In the times when I just wanted to give up and let a ventilator breathe for me, they were there to encourage me and help me. I will never forget what they did for our family.

Alex and Adam Durrant on their wedding day with son Otis after an emotional reunion with NNUH staff

Alex and Adam Durrant on their wedding day with son Otis after an emotional reunion with NNUH staff - Credit: Lisa and Neil

“To see them again on such an important day was just incredible. I owe them so much.”

While Alex and Otis’ full recovery is happy ending enough, there’s another chapter of this story currently being written: another baby Durrant is on the way, a little brother or sister for Otis.

“We know how lucky we are,” said Adam, “and we are so grateful to everyone that helped us, from our family and friends to the staff at the hospital.”

Alex added: “I feel like I’ve been given a second chance and I appreciate every minute I have with my family. ‘Thank you’ just isn’t enough. There just aren’t the words.”

* You can support NICU by making a donation  or sending a cheque made payable to NNUH NHS Foundation Trust Charitable Fund with “NICU” written on the back of the cheque and send it to Fundraising, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Colney Lane, Norwich, NR4 7UY.