Mu­mand prem baby in for long haul

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - ADELE RED­MOND

An Aus­tralian woman and her pre­ma­turely-born daugh­ter are stuck in Christchurch af­ter the in­fant was deemed too healthy for a medical trans­fer but too un­well for a com­mer­cial flight home.

Brodie Soster, 34, has been in Christchurch Hos­pi­tal with her daugh­ter, Bil­lie Ava Stevens, since a trip to visit fam­ily in her home­town of Grey­mouth ended in an emer­gency cae­sarean sec­tion nearly six months ago.

Bil­lie, who was born 25 weeks into the preg­nancy and weigh­ing just 510 grams, was too small to be held at first. Soster said she had since grown to 4 kilo­grams and started breast­feed­ing but still needed reg­u­lar oxy­gen and a her­nia op­er­a­tion.

She hoped to bring Bil­lie home to part­ner Scott Stevens in Bris­bane but doc­tors here said the baby was too ill to fly com­mer­cially and an of­fer from Queens- land Health to fund a spe­cial flight was re­cently re­tracted.

‘‘They did prom­ise a trans­fer and told me to get the [baby’s] pass­port but now they’re not com­ing be­cause they said she’s too well,’’ Soster said.

‘‘What’s re­ally frus­trat­ing is that when she goes home she’s not ac­tu­ally go­ing home.’’

Bil­lie has been bat­tling chronic lung dis­ease and will need oxy­gen for the next two years af­ter Soster de­vel­oped HELLP syn­drome, a type of pre-eclamp­sia, which meant she had to de­liver 15 weeks early.

Soster said a medical check up be­fore trav­el­ling to Grey­mouth in­di­cated she had ‘‘a per­fectly healthy preg­nancy and what I thought was a per­fectly healthy baby’’.

She at­trib­uted pain un­der­neath her rib cage to heart­burn but started strug­gling to breathe af­ter a few days. ‘‘What we didn’t know was that she [Bil­lie] had al­ready stopped cry­ing.’’

She said a lo­cal GP di­ag­nosed the syn­drome de­spite a lack of tell­tale swelling and headaches.

Soster was on a helicopter to Christchurch Hos­pi­tal within hours. Stevens was able to be bed­side for his daugh­ter’s birth and much of the first four months but was now back serv­ing in the Aus­tralian Army.

Soster said she ‘‘al­most lost’’ Bil­lie sev­eral times and, al­though her con­di­tion had im­proved, Bil­lie’s stomach was dis­tended from the sur­plus oxy­gen.

Queens­land Health al­legedly sug­gested she fly home with a nurse but Soster said cabin pres­sure on Bil­lie’s lungs mid-flight could be fa­tal. The medical trans­fer flight would have been spe­cially pres­surised.

‘‘If it’s not a medical trans­fer, I’m not will­ing to go.’’

As New Zealand cit­i­zens, the cost of Soster and Bil­lie’s care, now hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars, has been pub­licly funded.

A crowd­fund­ing cam­paign con- trib­uted more than $25,000 to Soster and Stevens’ mort­gage pay­ments but they would bear the brunt of on­go­ing medical costs once they re­turned to Bris­bane, Soster said.

‘‘It’s quite hard to un­der­stand how they [Queens­land Health] are not com­ing to the party with those fi­nances. It’s like, it’s a baby to us but it’s just fi­nances to them.’’

Queens­land Health was yet to re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Soster was grate­ful for her care in Christchurch but wanted to get home and set up a nurs­ery for her ‘‘first and prob­a­bly last’’ child.

Doc­tors told her she had a 50 per cent chance of de­vel­op­ing HELLP syn­drome in any fu­ture preg­nan­cies.

Though the birth was not as she had ex­pected, Soster said watch­ing small im­prove­ments in Bil­lie’s health made the dif­fi­cul­ties dis­ap­pear.

‘‘She smiled for the first time yes­ter­day [Satur­day] and she made my whole six months.’’

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