A “micro-preemie” baby who has fought for his life every day for nine weeks is finally well enough to be transferred to the Hawke’s Bay region whose hearts he has captured.
Elijah, born at 24 weeks’ gestation, is improving and growing fast, much to his parents’ Madeleine Power and Zayne Ashwell’s delight.
He was born at just 24 weeks and two days’ gestation on July 6, weighing 610 grams.
Arriving 16 weeks early meant Elijah had to fight for his life at Wellington Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
He was transferred to Hawke’s Bay Hospital on Thursday.
His mother has been with him since the day he was born, while her four other kids were being looked after by their stepdad.
“It’s so nice to be back. I’ve missed my kids so much, towards the end my heart was starting to ache,” Power said.
“It’d been hard being away from them, but I was in flight-or-fight mode. Now I am home it’s starting to sink in about everything we’ve been through.”
Power said Elijah was developing his own personality as he grew and it was “wonderful” to watch.
“He now weighs 1.5kg, he’s so alert. He recognises our voices,” she said.
“He follows the nurses around the room and his personality is starting to shine through.
“He’s a very cruisy baby and he only kicks up a fuss when he’s too hot.”
But he still has a long, tough path ahead, she said.
“He needs to gain 500g more before he will be flown back to Wellington for surgery to address his hernias,” Power said.
“He will be transferred back to Hawke’s Bay depending on how he goes with the surgery and anaesthesia.
“Last week he was diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis, and a stent will be put in at Starship when he’s closer to term, but it’s not set in stone.”
Pulmonary valve stenosis is a narrowing of the valve located between the lower right heart chamber (right ventricle) and the lung arteries (pulmonary arteries).
In a narrowed heart valve, the valve flaps (cusps) may become thick or stiff. This reduces blood flow through the valve.
“He’ll be getting a scan next week to see if there’s a stiffening of the valve,” Power said.
Elijah is 33 weeks now, but is still being fed through a nasogastric tube.
“I pump milk every three hours round the clock and he has 21ml every two hours,” she said.
“This week we might try to breastfeed.”
Both Power and Ashwell have 24-hour access to the hospital and can see Elijah as often as they like, but it’s strictly them.
“His siblings haven’t met him yet, it’s just us,” she said.
“We’d like to give a huge thank you to all the support and encouraging words, even from strangers. It has taken a whole village to support us and we are truly grateful.”
Hastings-based midwife Hayley Harmer said that as a generalisation, babies born at 24 weeks were typically faced with a “multitude of complications, because essentially they are not ready to deal with life when they are born that early”.
“Twenty-three to 24 weeks is often considered the age of viability for premature babies. That being said, most of the body’s systems are underdeveloped at 23 to 24 weeks’ gestation.
“It’s a hard road ahead.”
A family friend started a Givealittle page to help them cover any costs incurred for Elijah, and looking after him.
It has raised $4815 to date.
To donate go to https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/elijah-24week-baby?ref=home&ref_code=local_pages
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