Bodhi’s got tal­ent

Lisa’s brave baby

Real People - - CONTENTS -

Bleary eyed but still buzzing, I phoned the guy I was see­ing.

I’d barely been to sleep, hav­ing seen the first show­ing of The Force

Awak­ens at mid­night. Sadly, the Force wasn’t so strong with Shane Gas­coigne, 34.

He wasn’t half the Star Wars geek I was, but he hu­moured me as I blath­ered on about any­thing light-sabre re­lated.

We’d dated when we were 18, but had got back in touch thanks to Face­book.

Now he was in the Forces – al­though not the ga­lac­tic kind – while I was in sales.

And it seemed like the re­boot of our re­la­tion­ship was as suc­cess­ful as the Star Wars one.

We soon be­came a cou­ple, and the fol­low­ing year – Au­gust 2016 – we got our own place to­gether.

We both de­cided we wanted kids, but not quite as soon as it turned out.

Within weeks, I was preg­nant! ‘I don’t be­lieve it,’ I gasped. ‘Three pos­i­tive tests can’t be wrong,’ Shane grinned.

See­ing the lit­tle heart pump­ing away at the first scan, we were smit­ten. As well as rou­tine scans, we paid for a pri­vate one, which told us we were hav­ing a boy. At 20 weeks, I climbed on to the sono­g­ra­pher’s bed, jok­ing, ‘I’m half­way through this preg­nancy, please tell me ev­ery­thing’s per­fect.’

‘No one can tell you that,’ she smiled, ‘but it all looks great to me.’

Just over a fortnight later, me and Shane went away for a ro­man­tic week­end. In the bar af­ter din­ner, I felt a stab of pain in my back.

Shane helped me back to our room. Sit­ting on the loo, I no­ticed a strange, clear dis­charge. ‘Like a jel­ly­fish,’ I told him.

I felt OK the next day, but the day af­ter that, I was dou­bled up in pain again. I called my mid­wife.

‘The “jel­ly­fish” doesn’t sound nor­mal,’ she said. ‘Get to hospi­tal for a checkup.’

In A&E, a doc­tor quickly checked the heart­beat, and said it was fine. ‘First baby?’ he asked, pre­scrib­ing parac­eta­mol.

I’d al­ways had a high pain thresh­old, but he made me feel like a time-waster. Even though I knew some­thing was wrong, I felt I had no choice but to carry on.

Next day at work, my col­leagues could see I was in agony. They rolled up tow­els so I could sit com­fort­ably, and rubbed oint­ment on my back.

That night, I woke up bleed­ing, weep­ing with the pain.

Shane took me straight to hospi­tal, where a ju­nior doc­tor said the blood was noth­ing to worry about.

We went home again, where I sud­denly sprouted a hard bump. My stom­ach had been quite flat un­til then and it didn’t feel right. ‘I can’t go on like this,’ I cried. I made an ap­point­ment with the GP, who took one look and said, ‘You have too much fluid.’ She called the hospi­tal and told them to expect me im­me­di­ately.

Af­ter a scan and an in­ter­nal ex­am­i­na­tion, the con­sul­tant put his hand on my shoul­der.

‘You’re in labour,’ he said. ‘I’m ever so sorry.’

‘Sorry? Why?’ I de­manded. He looked at the mid­wife. ‘You’re only 23 weeks and three days,’ she said. ‘Be­fore 24 weeks, the baby isn’t classed as vi­able.’

Through my fog of fear and confusion, I re­alised what she was telling me – that if our son, who we’d al­ready named Bodhi, was born now, he would be of­fi­cially a mis­car­riage. ‘But he’s my child,’ I sobbed. ‘There is some good news,’

I was told.

There was noth­ing they could do to save ba­bies of 500g or less, but Bodhi weighed 550g, so he could have steroids to help his lungs.

I was trans­ferred to Princess Anne Hospi­tal in Southamp­ton, where they had spe­cial­ist fa­cil­i­ties. ‘Try to keep calm,’ they

urged. ‘The longer he stays inside you, the bet­ter.’

I ar­rived at 6.30pm. An­other con­sul­tant ex­am­ined me. ‘The baby is breech,’ she said. ‘It would be best to keep him inside un­til 26 weeks.’

As she left, she said, ‘Bed rest. Don’t move.’

Shane was on his way, but he’d gone to the wrong hospi­tal first, so I was alone and pet­ri­fied.

If I could keep Bodhi safe in my tummy for just a few more days, he had a chance of sur­vival.

If not, he might be a late mis­car­riage statis­tic. How could I bear it?

At that mo­ment, 7pm, my wa­ters broke. Sob­bing, I rang the bell and a mid­wife ran in. She sat on my bed and gave me a hug. ‘It’s go­ing to be OK,’ she soothed.

But se­conds later, I heard her in the cor­ri­dor, scream­ing for some help. The con­sul­tant reap­peared. ‘What have you done?’ she de­manded. ‘Noth­ing,’ I cried. ‘I haven’t left the bed.’ By now, I was 6cm di­lated. There was a whirl of peo­ple ar­riv­ing – Shane, a crash trol­ley, a team of six spe­cial­ists for Bodhi, an­other six for me. A pae­di­a­tri­cian came to speak to me. ‘If he fights when he’s born, we’ll work on him,’ she said gen­tly. ‘If not, we’ll wrap him in a blan­ket and give him to you for a cud­dle.’ I had a con­trac­tion and Bodhi’s legs, bum and an arm came out. I waited for the next con­trac­tion, but noth­ing came. The room went silent.

Af­ter two min­utes, a mid­wife pounded my belly and Bodhi rolled out.

There was a tiny cry. ‘That’s very un­usual,’ the con­sul­tant said. ‘It’s a good sign.’

Then the pae­di­a­tri­cian walked over with a minute bun­dle in her arms. ‘Have a cud­dle,’ she said. I stared at her, panic-struck. Was this the death cud­dle she’d told me about?

‘What kind of cud­dle?’ I cried. ‘A good one,’ she replied. She handed over our son, 1lb 2oz and 20cm long, like a pen­cil. His skin was translu­cent, gos­samer-thin. He looked like a baby bird whose shell had cracked far too soon.

Bodhi was taken to in­ten­sive care to be put on a ven­ti­la­tor and it was hours be­fore we were al­lowed to see him.

He lay in a heated in­cu­ba­tor, un­der lamps. ‘Like toma­toes in a green­house,’ I whis­pered.

All we could do was pray he would be­gin to thrive and grow.

I stayed at the hospi­tal, spend­ing ev­ery wak­ing hour at Bodhi’s side.

Many times, his mon­i­tors went crazy, alarms sound­ing, and med­i­cal teams raced to re­vive him.

His life was as del­i­cate as a spi­der’s web and I was too afraid to touch him at first.

But af­ter three weeks, a nurse laid Bodhi on my chest and tears streamed down my face.

With en­cour­age­ment from the nurses, I grad­u­ally gained more con­fi­dence, and learned how to change his nappy. ‘It’s mas­sive on him,’ I gig­gled, ‘like Si­mon Cow­ell’s high-waisted jeans.’

There was camaraderie among all the mums on the ward. Only we could un­der­stand the pres­sure to pro­duce breast milk, the ter­ror when the doc­tors stopped by your baby first on their rounds – that meant they were the sick­est.

As we ex­pressed milk in the room I called the ‘Titty Lounge’, we shared our hopes and fears, and friend­ships were forged.

One day, a fam­ily-li­ai­son lady said a film crew were in­ter­ested in shoot­ing a doc­u­men­tary-style ad­ver­tise­ment for Pam­pers, to pub­li­cise their cam­paign to do­nate tiny pre­ma­ture nap­pies to wards like ours.

They wanted our per­mis­sion, which we hap­pily gave.

I stroked Bodhi’s mini fin­gers and told him, ‘You’re go­ing to be a TV star. Don’t start throw­ing hissy fits now!’

The cam­era crew were so sen­si­tive and re­spect­ful as they shot the footage.

By now, ev­ery­one on the ward felt like fam­ily and we couldn’t wait to see our lit­tle celebri­ties on the ad when it was screened.

‘We’ll have to get them all an agent,’ the nurses joked.

In three and a half months, Bodhi went from crit­i­cal to high­care, fight­ing back from the brink.

When he reached 5lb 2oz, we were al­lowed to take him home.

It was scary at first, when we’d had so much help to hand, but Bodhi picked up fast and Shane and I be­gan to re­lax and en­joy be­ing a fam­ily at last.

Two months af­ter Bodhi was dis­charged from hospi­tal, the Pam­pers Lit­tle Fight­ers ad aired for the first time, dur­ing the fi­nal of Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent last year.

When I saw him on TV, I burst into tears. ‘Look how tiny he was!’

There was a link on Face­book so I could watch it again and again, and I cried ev­ery time.

‘I never used to cry at all,’ I laughed, blow­ing my nose.

I was so proud of all the ba­bies, so small, yet fierce with de­ter­mi­na­tion to fight for life.

Now Bodhi is 18 months old, a bright pickle. He pulls out draw­ers, and opens cup­board doors so he can throw crock­ery around. Nat­u­rally, above his cot is a

Star Wars poster with the tag line

The Force is strong with this one.

It cer­tainly was.

His grin is so cheeky and mis­chievous, it’s im­pos­si­ble to be cross with him. He is still a bit small, but doc­tors think he will catch up in no time. Whenever we get out the cam­era or take a snap on our phones, he stops to pose. Af­ter all, he was a TV per­son­al­ity two months be­fore he was even due to be born.

And in my eyes, of course, Bodhi will al­ways be the big­gest re­al­ity TV star of all. Lisa Cur­tis, 36, Skeg­ness, Lincs

We’ll have to get them all an agent!

Bodhi’s star­ring role in the Pam­pers ad

Our son was put on a ven­ti­la­tor im­me­di­ately

Noth­ing’s stop­ping him now!

Me and Shane were al­lowed to hold our baby at last I couldn’t be­lieve how tiny Bodhi was… …but he’s be­come a real bouncer!

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