'Such a strong little girl' - Hospital's most premature baby turns one
- Credit: Norfolk and Norwich University H
When baby Lilly Rae Rumbles was born she was called a 22-week miracle and became the youngest ever premature baby to return home from Norfolk's largest hospital.
Now she celebrates another milestone, her very first birthday.
Lilly was born on December 9, 2019, and weighed just 511g (1lb). She required five months of care in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before returning home for the first time on April 28.
Her parents Tayla Menear, 26, and Shane Rumbles, 30, from Fakenham, had been prepared she might not survive, but now are focused on marking the special day with a visit from friends and family in their garden.
Miss Menear said; "You couldn't have written it really - to have one of the most premature babies in the UK and on top of that there is a global pandemic.
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"It's strange celebrating her first birthday. She's still quite little. I think we are celebrating the fact we have got through the first year, all of us together.
"We are going to celebrate the fact that she is one and I am so excited to tell her that she is a year old, and what a remarkable little girl she is.
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"But we also have to rewrite that history because that day a year ago was one of the worst days of our lives. It’s marking an event which was really, really difficult."
The family will also spend their first Christmas together, with hopes Lilly will be able to open her presents alongside her cousins on December 25.
Miss Menear, said, depending on Covid restrictions, the family could hold a celebration on April 11, on what was meant to be Lilly's due date, and have a second birthday like the Queen.
When they brought Lilly home, she weighed four-and-a-half pounds. Now she weighs nearly a stone - around the weight a usual seven and half month old baby would be.
Miss Menear said; "Having a premature baby is one of the most difficult things you can go through. She is such a happy girl, everyone who sees her say they cannot believe how happy she is, she smiles constantly.
"She has the cheekiest little laugh and I think she does that because she knows it makes us smile.
"She going to be such a strong little girl.
"We have had so many of the doctors telling us how remarkable she is. We had to go to Great Ormond Street Hospital and the consultant there said he read the notes of a bleed on the brain and everything Lilly has been through. Then he saw her and said he had not expected to see such a healthy baby."
She praised the work of NNUH staff, adding; "You do not know how to say how thankful you are. They have helped give you the best gift any parent can have. They never once gave up.
"I want people to know it can happen. There is hope having a 22-weeker, it can happen and they can survive."
In October, Lilly was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, which means her lungs are struggling to operate at full capacity, which can leave her with laboured breathing.
Her progress has been watched by NNUH consultant Dr Priya Muthukumar along with the cardiologists at NNUH and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
Dr Muthukumar said: “The initial few weeks of transitions from hospital to home were challenging as would be expected of any family who have stayed in the hospital for such a long time but Tayla and Shane coped very well.
"Lilly’s pulmonary hypertension was worrying but the specialist team at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) are cautiously optimistic that things should improve with age. Lilly in herself is developing to be a delightful little girl.
"Her smiles and interactions during every visit makes all the effort very much worth it. Remaining well and at home during this winter is crucial for Lilly as her lungs are extremely fragile. I wish Lilly a very happy birthday and many more to come.”