Girl, 10, beats the odds

Rachel cel­e­brates birth­day

The Chronicle - - NEWS - Janelle Miles

WHEN Rachel Crowther was born al­most 16 weeks early, her par­ents were told she had only a five per cent chance of sur­vival and if she did live, she most likely would have brain dam­age.

But Rachel, who weighed just 669g as a new­born with a head no big­ger than a tennis ball, has de­fied med­i­cal ex­pec­ta­tions, re­turn­ing to the Royal Bris­bane and Women’s Hospi­tal this week to cel­e­brate her 10th birth­day.

Her par­ents de­scribe her as a highly in­tel­li­gent lit­tle girl who wins aca­demic awards at the Blen­heim State School, near Lai­d­ley, where her favourite sub­ject is maths.

“When she was born, the doc­tors told us to take lots of photos be­cause there’s a good chance that’s all you’ll take home,” her fa­ther Colin said.

Out of seven ba­bies be­ing cared for in the same room at the RBWH’s Grant­ley Sta­ble Neona­tal Unit,

in­clud­ing Rachel, Mr Crowther said only three made it home.

“It be­comes very real when the baby be­side yours passes away,” he said.

“Luck was on our side and we had good peo­ple help­ing us.

“The staff here did an amaz­ing job. With­out these

peo­ple, we would not have taken her home.”

Rachel’s Mum Rhonda re­calls a cou­ple of “touch and go” nights in the RBWH when she feared her first­born would not sur­vive un­til the morn­ing.

“They were dark nights for us but she made it through,” Mrs Crowther

said.

“She now takes on ev­ery life chal­lenge just like when she was born. She’s go­ing fine.”

RBWH di­rec­tor of neona­tol­ogy Pi­eter Koorts said ba­bies born at 24 weeks’ ges­ta­tion a decade ago were “right on the limit” of vi­a­bil­ity.

It be­comes very real when the baby be­side yours passes away. — Colin Crowther

These days, about 60 per cent of “24-week­ers” and 20 per cent of ba­bies born at 23 weeks sur­vive.

“For ba­bies born at 23, 24 weeks it’s still a grey area where we let par­ents, af­ter proper coun­selling, make the de­ci­sion about whether they should be re­sus­ci­tated,” Dr Koorts said.

“I don’t know what the limit of ges­ta­tion will be even­tu­ally, but cur­rently for us it’s 23 weeks un­der Queens­land guide­lines.”

He said many ba­bies born at such ex­treme lev­els of pre­ma­tu­rity faced ma­jor dis­abil­i­ties.

Nurse Co­lette McIn­tyre was one of the RBWH staff mem­bers who cared for Rachel and her par­ents a decade ago.

“I haven’t had the plea­sure of meet­ing one of our ba­bies 10 years later,” she said af­ter watch­ing Rachel cut her 10th birth­day cake.

“It’s beau­ti­ful to see. “It’s a priv­i­lege look­ing af­ter these lit­tle kids.”

PHOTO: CLAU­DIA BAX­TER/AAP

BIRTH­DAY GIRL: Rachel Crowther poses at the Neona­tal Ward at the RBWH on Thurs­day. Rachel cel­e­brated her 10th birth­day on the ward.

TINY BABY: Rachel Crowther was born at 24 weeks and two days ges­ta­tion at the Royal Bris­bane and Women’s Hospi­tal 10 years ago weigh­ing 669g. PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

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