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Mum to run 26km for premature baby son born at just 26 weeks

by | Mar 4, 2024

By Right to Life UK

A mother from Worthing is running a 26km race to raise funds for a premature baby charity after her own experience of giving birth to her son at just 26 weeks gestation.

Not only was baby Alfie born prematurely, he was also born in the USA, thousands of miles away from home in West Sussex.

His mother Kerry explained “After a five-day mini break to New York and Boston, I was 23 weeks and five days pregnant when I boarded the plane to fly home to the UK”.

“However, moments before take-off I suffered a placental abruption and was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston”.

Kerry was monitored closely in hospital for 17 days

She received steroids to strengthen Alfie’s lungs and a magnesium drip, which prevented her from having food or drink through her mouth.

“After a period of stability we were hoping to get a med-flight home around 26 weeks so that we were home for Christmas. But our son had other ideas”, said Kerry.

Alfie was born weighing just 964g and measuring just 32cm in length. Kerry remembered “The words ‘we have five minutes left to get this baby out’ will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

She added “Just like that, I’d given birth and my baby was intubated immediately and rushed off to the neonatal intensive care (NICU). All I could think about was whether I would ever see him again”.

Alfie remained in the hospital for 102 days

Kerry was able to see Alfie three hours after his birth, where he was in an incubator with severe facial bruising from being face-presented, where the baby delivers face first rather than the top of the head.

She was first allowed to hold her baby eight hours after he was born. “His skin was so fragile where it hadn’t fully formed and he was unable to maintain his temperature for long”, she said.

“When Alfie was about two weeks old he was finally able to be held for about 30 minutes a day and this gradually increased as he became stronger”.

Eventually, after over three months of care in the USA, Kerry and Alfie were able to fly back to the UK where they spent a further two weeks in East Surrey Hospital learning to breastfeed.

“Having a premature baby is incredibly scary and lonely in itself, but to go through our experience in a different country followed by a global pandemic has without doubt been the hardest experience of my life. I am thankful every day to our NICU family for saving our miracle boy”.

Alfie’s survival shows the resilience of very premature babies

Kerry has planned a symbolic fundraising run of 26km – to represent Alfie’s 26 weeks gestation – from the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton to Goring. She will be running from 2am to 2pm to represent Alfie’s 2lb 2oz weight at birth, and splitting the journey at three-hourly intervals to signify how infrequently she was allowed to touch her baby.

Alfie was born at just 26 weeks gestation, which is just two weeks over the UK’s current abortion limit of 24 weeks gestation. Originally set at 28 weeks, the abortion limit was lowered in 1990 to 24 weeks gestation in reflection of medical and technological advancements that had resulted in improving survival rates for babies born before 28 weeks gestation.

Since then, however, further medical advances have meant that survival rates for babies who are born before the 24-week abortion limit have significantly improved so that babies born below 24 weeks gestation are increasingly able to survive.

There is a clear contradiction at the heart of our abortion law and current medical practice. On the one hand, the law permits ending the lives of babies at 22 and 23 weeks, and, on the other hand, current medical practice strives to save the lives of many babies born prematurely at 22 or 23 weeks gestation.

The annual abortion statistics for England and Wales in 2021 (the most recent year for which a full year of data is available) reveal that 755 ‘ground C’ abortions were performed when the baby was at 22 or 23 weeks gestation (ground C is the statutory ground under which the vast majority of abortions are permitted and there is currently a 24-week time limit for abortions performed under this statutory ground).

This means in the same hospital, on the same day, two babies at the same gestational age (22 or 23 weeks gestation) could have very different fates – one could have his or her life deliberately ended by abortion, and the other could be born prematurely and have a dedicated medical team provide the best care they can to try to save his or her life.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “Alfie’s amazing story of being born prematurely in a foreign country demonstrates how resilient premature babies can be in fighting for life even in challenging circumstances. It is wonderful to hear that he is doing well and that his mother is hoping to give back by raising money for premature babies through her race.”

Categories: Premature babies