Baby Boet Mees used up all his cards, bar one, far too quickly. At 25 weeks gestation prenatal scans showed he was already significantly behind in his growth.
Boet folded another card when born 13 weeks too early, the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck three times, and weighing just 689g.
For five weeks his maternity hospital kept him alive using ventilation machines to support his lungs born too immature for this world.
But it then became clear there was nothing else they could do to ensure enough oxygen could get to his vital organs.
Parents Marijn Mees and Joris Steeman called their two daughters, aged six and three, to their baby brother’s bedside for their first — and possibly last — family photo.
This family had already endured the miscarriage of four sons.
“As parents you are so desperate and anxious and scared,” said Ms Mees. “The depth of those emotions, even after late miscarriages, aren’t comparable to seeing your baby fighting and maybe not being able to win that fight.”
In a last-ditch attempt to save his life, Boet was transferred to the Royal Children’s Hospital where doctors hatched a plan to try the high frequency jet ventilator.
It’s a form of breathing support not available anywhere else on the east coast, and pioneered at the RCH 20 years ago.
It sends up to 600 tiny puffs of oxygen into the lungs each minute; keeping the baby alive, but giving the lungs time to recover.
RCH neonatologist and respiratory specialist Dr David Tingay said standard breathing machines that kept pre-term babies alive, caused their under-developed lungs to become stiff and inflamed, which stopped the lungs form healing.
“We use this jet therapy to allow the lung to rest and start healing. Then the lung tissue can start growing again itself,” Dr Tingay said.
“Generally babies who are referred to jet therapy are so sick that they are deemed not able to survive without that therapy.
“The need for using this is increasing as the rates of preterm birth increase. It’s not uncommon for us to have a whole fleet, our four machines, in use at once.”
And it worked.
Instantly Boet improved and after 12 days on the machine, his lungs recovered enough so he could breathe on his own with lower forms of breathing support.
Today is the day Boet was supposed to be born. Instead he is three-months old and weighs 2.5kg. Boet has been discharged from the RCH to the Royal Women’s Hospital, in the next step towards home.
“I wish that he literally grows out of his bad lungs into a healthy set,” Ms Mees said.
“We can only hope that he in a couple of years he is running around with his sisters, giving them a run for their money.”
To donate to The Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal please click here or phone 9292 1166.
Words Brigid O’Connell (Herald Sun), photos Jay Town.