Baby died three times on way to hospital as Belfast mum got CPR instructions over phone
A Belfast mum whose baby son was born prematurely at 24 weeks faced a heartbreaking decision on whether to resuscitate her baby after he died three times in a car dash to the hospital.
Megan Kelly gave birth to Shea at a holiday cottage in Co Louth four months before the baby's due date, and she and her partner had to administer life-saving CPR to their desperately-ill baby as they followed instructions over the phone en route to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.
Later at the hospital, doctors told the mum her baby ran the risk of having disabilities if they resuscitated him again.
The 23-year-old hairdresser said: "He was fighting so hard I couldn't say yes to stopping resuscitation."
Now baby Shea, who also suffered cardiac arrest, a collapsed lung and had to have several surgeries while in intensive care at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, is home with his parents in north Belfast and thriving, having been discharged from hospital in the past week.
The mum wanted to share her story for PREMvember, which marks the vital, ongoing services provided by Northern Ireland premature baby charity, TinyLife.
Megan was having an overnight stay in Carlingford with partner Michael (23), who is a welder, when baby Shea arrived a lot earlier than expected. And the couple had to drive the newborn baby to the nearest hospital, while also having to administer life-saving CPR.
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"Shea died three times in the car as Michael and I were getting CPR instructions over the phone from emergency services," she recalled.
After the trauma of his premature birth, the couple also discovered Shea must be registered in the Republic of Ireland.
"We're not sure if he will end up with dual citizenship or be an Irish citizen. We have been told to present ourselves in Drogheda to have Shea registered."
Red tape aside, the pair are just glad to have their firstborn home in time for Christmas, and on the road to good health. "He is a miracle. I'm grand as long as he's okay. When he was born it was terrible, it was just awful."
Even after Megan gave birth unexpectedly in the cottage, she was terrified for Shea. "I didn't think he was alive. Michael and I had to give him CPR in the car because he couldn't breathe on his own because he was so early. We lost him three times," she revealed.
"We reached the border and the ambulance took Shea to hospital and we followed behind. I just remember coming through the A&E exit and Shea was in the resuscitation room and he looked so tiny and helpless, with so many people around him.
"Just 10 minutes later I was asked did I want resuscitation to be stopped, as there would be a chance of Shea being disabled, but I couldn't say yes because he was fighting so hard.
"I wanted it to be continued and 15 minutes later the nurse came round and said he was nice and pink and screaming his lungs off."
But Shea still needed emergency care and was transferred to a specialist unit at the Royal where he needed surgery during which time he suffered a cardiac arrest. The tiny baby needed eight surgeries including laser therapy on his eyes, suffered a collapsed lung and had to have a hernia repair.
Despite the trauma of Shea's birth, his mum is positive about his future.
Now four months old, he is thriving and weighs six pounds two ounces. "I know myself he will be okay after the car journey from Carlingford to Newry - he made it, and that shows me how strong he is," she said proudly.
"He's alive. I've spent months in intensive care and it's a scary place, and so many babies have passed away in that time. Shea is still here and it's 10 times better than him not being here. It could've been so much worse."
Megan joked that Shea is proving quite a handful. "He wouldn't sleep for two nights before he got out of hospital, and is wriggling around all the time. I'm so glad because he's doing things now that we thought he might never do."
Megan has had to give up her hairdressing job as Shea will need round-the-clock care with specialist nurses visiting too. She is indebted to Northern Ireland premature baby charity Tiny Life who have supported the couple since Shea was born.
"Helen Marks, TinyLife family support officer, visits us once a week and she gave me a book which is full of stories about premature babies like Shea. The book has given me hope because they are all miracles.
"Before Shea was born I didn't even know places like intensive care in the RVH existed."
Megan added the support is very welcome: "I got into the car for the first time last week and I had flashbacks to what happened there when Shea was born. I was traumatised.
"But it's the journey and it is worth it so much in the end. I am especially lucky to have Shea in my life considering how many times he was nearly taken from me. From first born to now, I can see a big difference in my TinyLife baby."
PREMvember gives participants the chance to eat cake and raise money for the six premature babies born every day in Northern Ireland. The successful recipe for this tea party-themed campaign invites everyone to raise funds with tea and cake throughout the month of November.
n If you would like to take part in this year's PREMvember campaign, tel: 028 9081 5050 or visit www.tinylife.org.uk or download a fundraising pack at www.buytickets.at/tinylife
For further information on TinyLife, please visit tinylife.org.uk or find Tinylife on Facebook and Twitter.