Verity’s extra special birthday
Verity Fleming is a miracle baby, and it’s a miracle that she and her mother Annemarie survived her difficult birth.
This made last Saturday a particularly emotional one at the family home at Creagh, Gorey as they celebrated Verity’s first birthday.
Verity was born 15 weeks premature, at just 25 weeks gestation, and weighed just 1 lb 12 oz, or 810 grams. She had to be delivered early to save her mother’s life. Verity was not expected to survive, but she did. Annemarie’s life hung in the balance too, but thanks to the vigilance of the staff at Holles Street Hospital in Dublin, they both lived.
It was then discovered that Verity was born with five holes in her heart, and she spent months in hospital. She finally arrived home three days before Christmas and met her three sisters and brother for the first time.
Her father David said that Verity’s first birthday was a day they thought they wouldn’t see.
‘It all kicked off a little before the end of September last year,’ he recalled. Annemarie was pregnant with their fifth child. Three of their children had been delivered by caesarian section, and the doctors had warned that this was potentially something to worry about.
Annemarie suffered from various bouts of pain, and had been to hospital several times, but there didn’t appear to be anything sinister.
On September 23, she was brought to Wexford General by ambulance, suffering from sever pain. The following day, the pain had started to subside, but the doctor referred them to Holles Street Hospital in Dublin for a scan.
A number of issues were discovered, including an issue with the baby’s heart, and with the placenta which had attached to scar tissue. Injections were administered to help the baby’s lunge mature. The due date was January 10, and Annemarie was told she’d have to stay in hospital until then.
‘A week later, the doctor was doing the rounds on the ward, and he said if she stayed pain free, he might let her go home,’ recalled David.
Unfortunately, Annemarie suffered a seizure that evening. She was stabilised and moved to the high dependency unit. Later that night, David got a call at 1 a.m. to get to the hospital. ‘The implication was she might not see the night out,’ said David.
The gardaí in Gorey brought him up to the hospital at speed.
Annemarie’s blood clotting factor was gone, and David was told that if they operated, she would bleed out. They spent the night giving her transfusions to try to get the body to clot.
By 7 a.m., she was stabilised, and the doctors took an educated guess that in the scans, the baby was blocking their view of a bleed.
‘The consultant was brought in. He was an absolutely brilliant man, and he said “we’ve got to go”,’ said David. ‘I was taken out, and she was prepared for surgery.’
At this point, the Master of the Hospital visited David and said the baby would definitely not make it, and that Annemarie’s survival was their paramount concern.
‘I thought my world was falling down around me,’ he said.
Another doctor then came in and said there may be a chance for the baby as she was 25 weeks. David was given Annemarie’s wedding ring and engagement ring.
‘I was asked to say goodbye to her,’ he said. ‘She was petrified, and she said to me “look after our kids. I know you’ll be a great Dad”, She knew she would die.’
At 9.05 a.m., David was given the thumbs up. The baby was born alive, and she was brought to the neo-natal ICU. ‘It’s hard to explain just how small she was,’ said David. ‘She was less than a bag of sugar. I was allowed to briefly touch her hand.’
Then it was back to the theatre. A surgeon came out at 2 p.m. and said they had been successful in saving Annemarie. The equivalent of three times the entire blood from her body had been lost and replaced.
A team from St Vincent’s Hospital had been called in to assist with various aspects of the surgery. Annemarie was brought to St Vincent’s overnight to recover, and David went home to tell their children they had a new sister. They wouldn’t see her for another three months.
Annemarie was then brought back to Holles Street to be with Verity, and she stayed there for two-and-a-half weeks. They both have nothing but praise for all the team at Holles Street.
Verity faced numerous challenges, but overcame them all. Five holes were found in her heart, but fortunately they healed naturally. She had seven transfusions. Surgery had been anticipated but would not have been possible until her weight reached 5 lbs.
‘She’s a healthy baby now,’ said David. ‘She’s a bit smaller than a one-year-old, but she’ll catch up.’ Annemarie is also recovering well.
‘Saturday was an extremely emotional day,’ added David. ‘A year ago, I thought I’d be telling the kids they didn’t have a sister and their mother wasn’t coming home.’
‘There were so many moments where you’d think you’re out of the woods, and then something would happen,’ he said. ‘It was extremely stressful, but we were one of the lucky families.'