Baby beats odds to reach first birthday after parents told she'd die 30 times

This weekend will be baby Iris’ first birthday and despite lockdown, it will be a big celebration for her parents Emma Griffin and Scott Woodland.

Iris was born at 28 weeks and was very ill for the first months of her life, with doctors telling her parents 30 times that she was unlikely to survive.

But the little girl beat the odds and is now about to turn one on November 21.

The day is particularly poignant for the couple as their first child together, Monty, died just 57 minutes after he was born at 29 weeks and after Iris’ birth, they feared losing another baby.

Emma, 42, from Droitwich in Worcestershire said: ‘I thought I was prepared for the neonatal journey as I have been through a premature birth before, but I was not. It has been the longest and toughest journey ever.

‘We were heart broken when we heard the words “she will not survive’” come out of the doctors mouth. Iris had an extremely bad infection which the doctors could not get control of.

‘All that they told us everyday for four weeks was that she was going to die. It got to the point where I did not want to go an visit her some days because I was so devastated hearing the same thing from the doctors. It felt like they had given up all hope.

‘I tried to not build my self up too much and prepared myself for the worst, but at the same time we held on to any glimmer of hope. All we wanted was to take our baby home and be given the chance to parent together.

‘We could not sleep or eat, and spent most nights crying and dreading that the phone was going to ring.’

Her pregnancy with Iris was labelled high risk because of Monty’s birth in February last year at 29 weeks.

Emma explained: ‘He only survived for 57 minutes as he suffered from hydrops – an accumulation of fluid in at least two foetal compartments.

‘My partner and I both have children from previous relationships but Monty was our first baby together.’

After his death, the couple quickly decided to try for another child because of their ages.

Emma said: ‘We felt like time was against us.

‘By May the same year, I had fallen pregnant again. Because of what had happened in my previous pregnancy, I was kept under a close eye to make sure everything was fine.

‘However, during a private gender scan, it was discovered that Iris had some fluid around her lungs. We then had to have weekly scans to keep an eye on the amount of fluid.

‘The fluid levels kept increasing and it kept having to be drained. At 27 weeks the level of fluid was so high that it was squashing her lungs, the doctors told me I might need to have a shunt to keep draining the fluid.

‘However, I woke up the next day and started having contractions and my waters broke. I had to have an emergency C-section, within an hour and a half Iris was born.

‘Her lungs had collapsed and she needed to be taken to the Birmingham Women’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit. When we arrived, all the doctors kept saying to us was that she was extremely sick and that they were doing all they could but it was touch and go.’

When Iris arrived she was taken straight to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and she faced many challenges during the first few months of her life, including pneumonia at just two weeks old.

Over the next few weeks, things seemed to be getting better and as Iris got stronger, she no longer needed to be in an incubator.

On Christmas day last year, they visited her in hospital and left that evening, thinking everything was fine.

Emma added: ‘However, on the morning of Boxing Day we received a call to say that Iris’ state had severely deteriorated and she was struggling to breathe, so they had to re-incubate her in intensive care.

‘The doctors found that Iris had an infection, they put her on antibiotics but they could not get on top of it. Her infection markers were 500, and they should be at one.

‘This is when we really thought we were going to lose our baby. Every morning when we went to the hospital we were greeted with the doctors explaining to us that Iris was not going to get through this.

‘One day the doctors gathered to discuss whether they were going to withdraw her treatment. My heart sank, I was absolutely terrified.

‘Luckily they decided to continue with her treatment.

‘But, the doctors had decided that if her heart stopped then they would not resuscitate her. So, a DNR – do not resuscitate- was placed on her.

‘I was heartbroken, I could not bear to lose another child. I just kept hoping that she was going to be okay.’

After another week of treatment, Iris seemed to be slightly better and the DNR was removed, but five days later, her heart stopped and she needed to be resuscitated.

Emma added: ‘The doctors were clutching at straws, they had tried everything to get on top of the infection but they could not. They kept telling me I was not going to get my baby back.’

In February medics discovered an abdominal mass, which turned out to be sepsis and was the cause of the serious infection.

After further treatment, Iris responded well and seemed to be getting better. She was then extubated once again.

However, in March, further complications appeared after Iris was given immunisations, and she had to be incubated again in NICU.

Over the next few weeks, things began to improve once again. Emma says that two days after the country went into lockdown, they were able to take Iris home, where she was having full feeds and on a low flow of oxygen.

Emma added: ‘This did not last long. During Easter weekend Iris started struggling with her breathing and flopped in my arms. I called 999 and we were blue lighted to the hospital. In the ambulance, she went into cardiac arrest.

‘She had to be incubated once again and we spent a further ten days in the hospital while she was being treated for a respiratory virus until she had got strong enough to return home.’

Iris has been home with her family since the end of April, despite being born last November.

Emma said: ‘We are so unbelievably proud of Iris. She has been weaned off of her oxygen and she is doing things the doctors told us she would never be able to do.

‘She is rolling around and trying to stand, and she has said “Dada”. I do not think she will have a problem with walking.

‘She is amazingly strong and we are so grateful to have her home. We can’t wait to celebrate her first birthday, it is a massive milestone.

‘Although we cannot do everything we wanted for her birthday due to the current restrictions, we are going to make it as special as possible for her.

‘We are getting a rainbow cake made for her as really is our rainbow baby. It has been a roller-coaster.

‘Although there is still a massive hole left by Monty that will never be filled, we are thankful for where we are today.’

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