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‘When I saw her little body … it took my breath away’ – Olivia’s story

Butterfly Ball Brisbane - Olivia“In November 2011, my husband and I learned the most exciting news, I was pregnant with our first child fulfilling a dream that we shared to start our own family.

However my dream of pregnancy and motherhood quickly changed from excitement to dread when early in my pregnancy things started to go terribly wrong.

To cut a long and very painful story short, doctors fought to keep Olivia from being born before 30 weeks.

They were unsuccessful; Olivia was born very prematurely at 28 weeks and 2 days weighing only 948g just more than 2 pounds and measuring 25cm.

When she was born, she let out a cry but the sound was brief. She needed oxygen immediately and was quickly whisked away before I got more than a glimpse of her.

When I came out of recovery I was excited but also terrified to finally see my daughter for the first time, I had no idea what to expect or what her future would hold. When I saw her little body that was no bigger than my hand, covered in tubes and monitors, it took my breath away. I wanted to be strong for her, to prove to her that we had the strength to get her through, but it was like I could not breathe.

It was five extremely long days before we were able to hold our daughter for the first time. It was heart-wrenching having to leave her in the nursery when I was discharged from hospital. I cried everyday when we had to go home, I felt guilty that we were leaving her there. During our time in the Neonatal ICU and the Special Care Unit it felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster that was never going to end.

During the next 10 weeks I could not help but to look around at the number of babies that were in a similar situation to Olivia, it was an overwhelming and eye-opening experience not only for my husband and myself, but also for our family and friends who have been by our side supporting us from day one.

While in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Special Care Unit we were approached several times to be a part of some of the clinical trials being run through the Perinatal Research Centre and each time I said ‘yes’, if our experience and journey could help prevent birth-related complications, to me there was no other answer.

Olivia became a part of three trials including the Massage Study which was investigating the effects of maternal touch and its impact on premature brain development. This was my favourite trial. I strongly felt that increased tactile contact would be beneficial to her but, more importantly, most of the time I felt like I was a spectator in the care of my own child and this trial enabled me to become not only a part of but an essential part of her care every day.

We have been one of the lucky couples with a very premature baby – Olivia has thrived!

Olivia is almost three and so far is not showing any signs that her premature and rocky start to life has disadvantaged her. Recent indications from clinical trial results show that these interventions have been extremely beneficial to Olivia and this was confirmed when we visited her paediatrician who said she was advanced even for a child of her birth age.

After leaving hospital I said to my husband ‘I need to do something more to help’. I wanted to ensure that babies like Olivia had a better chance at a healthy start to life.

That is when I joined the Butterfly Babies committee.

Butterfly Babies is an initiative of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation dedicated to raising funds for life changing medical research into conditions such as prematurity and stillbirth.

Butterfly Babies supports one of the largest research groups committed to preventing birth-related tragedies in Australia (the Perinatal Research Centre) and the PRC collaborates with similar groups both nationally and internationally.

All funds raised through Butterfly Babies go directly to research as the committee is made up of volunteers who all are either extremely passionate about this subject or who have themselves been through birth related tragedies.

Today Olivia is the “covergirl” for Butterfly Babies! Without the money raised through events like the Butterfly Ball, Olivias’ future might not be so bright!”

– thanks to Olivia’s mother Toni for sharing her story with us.

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Harcourt’s Butterfly Ball it is being held at the Sofitel on 20th September 2014. For more information or to buy tickets visit www.rbwhbutterflyball.com.au

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