Premature baby saved from the brink of death after mum read the Mr Men to settle her heart-rate
Meet the baby girl who was saved from a life-threatening condition by a MR MEN book.
Tiny Ava Allen wasn’t expected to survive after being born 14 weeks premature, with a rare lung condition, and needed an emergency operation to stand any chance of pulling through.
Doctors warned her worried mum, Vicki, 20, that no child as young as Ava had ever survived the surgery – but as baby Ava lay recovering from the op, her mum began to read her a Mr Men book – and was amazed as the sound of her voice steadied her daughter’s heart rate.
Ava Allen, now nine-months-old, has fought against all the odds to still be fighting fit today but her mum Vicki thinks it’s all down to the Mr Men.
Vicki, 20, from Horley, Sussex, said: “All I wanted to do was pick her up and cuddle her, she was so small and fragile, but she was too small to hold.
“The most I could do was stroke her cheek through the incubator but when I started reading Mr Tickle her heart monitor started to settle down.
“It was amazing. I knew straight away she liked the book and it was helping so after that I read her every single Mr Men and Little Miss book.
“Now that she’s pulled through against all the odds I’m sure the Mr Men helped, those books will always have a special place in my heart.
“She still loves the Mr Men and starts to jump up and down when she sees me with the Mr Tickle book.”
Ava was born 14 weeks premature, weighing just 1lb 4oz, and was given just a 20 per cent chance of survival after being diagnosed with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia – a condition that hinders lung formation.
Vicki couldn’t cuddle her daughter for 15 weeks while she struggled for her life in the incubator but when she started reading Mr Tickle to young Ava her heart monitor started to steady and relax.
Vicki was completely unaware of her pregnancy until she passed out at work and was rushed to hospital only to find out she wasn’t just pregnant, she was 25 weeks’ pregnant.
She gave birth just six days later in what was a huge but very happy surprise for Vicki and her boyfriend Chris Hutcheson, 21.
Vicki, who works for Southern Gas Networks, said: “I had no pregnancy symptoms at all which was why we found out so late.
“Ava was a huge surprise but it was obviously meant to be. She’s an absolute delight and it’s incredible that she’s battled through so much.”
Ava was born on September 1, 2014 at St Peter’s Hospital in a highly complicated birth that saw Vicki haemorrhage and lose more than three pints of blood.
Doctors feared for both of their lives, particularly Ava, who was diagnosed with CDH – a condition that leaves a small hole in the diaphragm, allowing the abdominal organs to push into the chest cavity and hinder lung formation.
Babies with the condition only have a 50/50 chance of survival as abdominal organs in the chest cavity can severely affect the ability to breathe and even move the heart out of position.
At 30 weeks, still 10 weeks premature, she was transferred to St George’s Hospital in London where doctors operated on Ava to move the abdominal organs back below the diaphragm and repair the hole.
Vicki said: “That operation was the longest four hours of our lives.
“Waiting to see if she’d be ok was just agonising but the relief when the doctor came out to say it had all gone well was just overwhelming.
“She’d beaten all the odds and everything had worked – we couldn’t believe it!
“She had to spend over 60 days ventilated in intensive care but incredibly after 15 weeks in hospital, she finally came home just before Christmas breathing on her own and now she’s thriving.”
Finally, 15 weeks after she was born Ava came home on 17th December – just in time to open her Christmas stocking filled with Mr Men books.
Now Ava’s 9-months-old and thriving. She can sit up, she’s learning how to talk and she still gets excited when Vicki reads the Mr Men to her.
Ava’s suffered no long-term complications from the CDH, her operation or her premature birth.
Beverley Power, secretary and trustee for CDH UK – The Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Support Charity, said: “Ava is the youngest survivor of CHD we’ve ever seen.
“She didn’t only have to cope with the horrors of CDH, she also had to deal with the complications of prematurity.
“She was born on the age of life itself and her recovery is quite remarkable. We’ve never known anything like it in our experience.
“CDH UK has been in operation for over 15 years and doctors normally give a 50/50 chance of survival.
“It’s a horrible condition that we still don’t know how to treat properly and it’s even more severe with premature births, making Ava’s recovery even more remarkable.”
Justin Richards, consultant neonatologist at St George’s University Hospitals, said: “Preterm babies can hear their mother’s voice and it is certainly possible that Vicki reading to Ava may have had a calming effect.
“The neonatal team at St George’s hospital thought that it was likely that Ava would be too sick and small to survive.
“Most babies born this prematurely with a diaphragmatic hernia are not strong enough to make it through intensive care.
“However they were extremely pleased with how well she responded to medical treatment, and recovered from her operation.
“Her survival is a testament to the caring and expertise of the nurses, doctors and surgeons looking after her.”