RACHAEL and David Sparks are on the Gold Coast today to say thank you to IGA staff in Ashmore for donating to the Mater Little Miracles Easter Appeal, which helped save the life of their daughter.
The couple spent years trying to fall pregnant before they welcomed their daughter, Morgan (pictured), into the world on 9 December 2009.
For the family it was an emotional roller coaster from 25 weeks gestation when Rachael was admitted to her local hospital with pre-eclampsia, which is high blood pressure.
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As they did not have the facilities to care for Morgan in the womb, Rachael was rushed to Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane. She was put on steroid treatment to help Morgan’s lungs develop in-utero and a drip as Rachael’s kidneys and liver were shutting down.
So at only 25 weeks gestation, Morgan was born via emergency caesarean weighing only 600 grams and rushed straight to Maters’ Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU) as she wasn’t breathing very well.
“I cried in shock. Our baby was actually in front of us but I only saw her for a second and couldn’t even hold her as she had to be taken away and resuscitated – we both went separate ways for our own treatment in ICU,” Rachael said.
“Morgan was so tiny weighing as much as a Mount Franklin bottle of water, her skin was see-through, she had no eyebrows or eyelashes as she hadn’t fully developed yet.”
“I didn’t see her for two days being in ICU myself but the nurses took photos. Then David and I went into NCCU and as we put our hands through the holes of the humidicrib that was keeping her alive we couldn’t believe how tiny she was. All you want to do is hold your baby and be there for her, but we couldn’t until she was more stable.”
“There were a few times where Morgan’s vital signs fluctuated so she was on ventilation and oxygen for the first three months of her life. Yet she kept fighting and slowly put on weight one day at a time,” she said.
However, around eight weeks after Morgan’s birth, her oxygen levels dropped rapidly and she struggled to breathe. Doctors found Morgan was born with a very serious heart condition – patent ductus arteriosus (PDA).
When a baby is still in the womb, the PDA is a normal vessel that allows blood flowing from the right side of the heart to bypass the lungs. The PDA normally spontaneously closes in the first few days after birth. Due to her extreme prematurity the PDA didn’t close and actually allowed blood to flow in the opposite direction. This put her lungs under great stress and decreased the blood flow to the rest of her body.
Unfortunately the PDA didn’t respond to treatment with medications and Morgan’s only chance of survival was to close the vessel with heart surgery whilst she was still extremely small.
“We were devastated with how early she was born; we hadn’t even set up the nursery or attended any pre-natal classes. It was an emotional rollercoaster! We moved to Brisbane for a while to be closer to Morgan, then when we returned to the Gold Coast and would drive daily up to the hospital for her feeds,” Rachael continued.
“We started to think we weren’t meant to have a child but it was a wonderful surprise to fall pregnant with Morgan so whilst she was born early we never gave up that she would pull through. We can provide all the love but we needed all the Mater doctors and nurses to give her the care she needed and medicine. We felt very supported as you have no idea what to expect with a premature baby.”
Morgan fought for her life and after four months in hospital, the family finally went home which included a small stay in the local hospital for remaining care.
As Morgan was born with chronic neonatal lung disease which is common in 65% of premature babies, she went home on oxygen for 27 months.
“Having a premature baby comes with ongoing medical care as Morgan required check-ups with Mater’s Growth and Development team and Sleep and Respiratory Clinic so we still travel to Brisbane a few times a year,” Rachael said.
Today, Morgan is an outgoing, happy, healthy, three-and-a half-year-old who can’t get enough of life especially swimming and dancing. You would never know she’d come so close to losing her life.
“We’re so proud of Morgan and grateful to Mater for the blessing of our baby girl. I hope the community can support the Mater Little Miracles Easter Appeal because you never know when you might need the hospital care. We donate every year as the equipment, research and specialised care for premature babies like Morgan is only possible thanks to donations. Without it we wouldn’t have these children,” she said.
Each year Mater helps more than 300 000 mothers, babies and children from all over Queensland and northern New South Wales.
You can help babies like Morgan through the Mater Little Miracles Easter Appeal by purchasing Miracle Max merchandise from participating IGA, Bendigo Bank or Guardian Pharmacy stores.
IGA State Board Chairperson, Brett Bugg said IGA stores are proud to support the Mater Little Miracles Easter Appeal.
“IGA stores are dedicated to supporting local communities and we have been a partner with Mater since 2004. In that time, our customers and staff have helped to raise over $2 million to make a real difference in the lives of many Queensland babies and children cared for at Mater. We are proud of this partnership and really enjoy working with Mater,” Brett said.
Thanks to the community and partners like IGA, last year approximately 14 439 babies and children were retrieved from the Gold Coast. These children had severe or complicated medical conditions, which often required specialised life-saving care that only health care facilities like Mater can provide.
In addition, Mater Mothers’ Hospitals provide life-saving care to 2000 seriously ill and premature babies in the Neonatal Critical Care Unit—one of Australia’s largest neonatal critical care services. Mater’s Paediatric Intensive Care Unit cares for approximately 1500 children per year.
You can make little miracles happen for sick babies and children this Easter. For more information or to donate visit www.materfoundation.org.au or text 13 MLM.