A couple have described their delight after their son, who was given little chance of survival after being born at just 23 weeks, defied expectations to reach his first birthday.
Connor Walkow weighed just 1lb 2oz when he unexpectedly came into the world on October 3 last year, but his birth was almost prevented after doctors at Milton Keynes Hospital said he was not viable for delivery.
After parents Rachel Crockett, 25, and Craig Walkow, 38, from Wing, demanded that he be given a chance, Connor was delivered at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford– where he stayed for the first seven months of his life.
Rachel told the LBO: “My waters broke in McDonalds and at that point I was 23 weeks and two days pregnant, which is just short of the 24-week cut off point.
“It was a real panic for us, we didn’t know what to do at all. We were told that they couldn’t do anything for us but Craig and I pushed them to ring other hospitals.
“After talking it through with them I thought that was it, the baby we wanted we would not be able to get.
“We were so relieved when John Radcliffe Hospital said they would take us, though they could not promise they would be able to help.”
After beating the odds to survive delivery at such an early stage, Connor continued to amaze doctors – who told his parents that he would not survive.
Due to the prematurity of his birth many of Connor’s organs had not developed and he picked up necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which was caused by a limited blood flow to his intestine.
The baby, who at this time was so small he was placed inside a freezer bag, then underwent the first of five operations after his bowel perforated.
Rachel said: “We were told to say goodbye to Connor and that we wouldn’t see him again.
“It felt like the end of the world, we were numb.
“When you are told he will not make tomorrow, you don’t know what to do.
“We just had to sit there and wait for the nurse to say the worst, there was such relief when they told us he was OK.
“Later on the consultant came by and looked in on him, he could not believe Connor looked so well.”
Despite being the worst of the conditions which befell Connor, NEC was by no means the only one. He also suffered from fungal meningitis, chronic lung disease, a bleed to the brain and retinopathy of prematurity– which later required laser eye surgery.
In April, a three-hour operation to repair Connor’s bowel took eight hours, but again he beat the odds to survive. Only after five months, three bowel operations, laser eye surgery and a procedure to install a central venous catheter were Rachel and Craig told that they would one day be able to take Connor back to their home on High Street, Wing.
Rachel said: “I can’t describe the feeling when we were told that we would be able to take him home at some point. We then went in a mad rush to buy everything and put it up at home as we hadn’t been able to do that before. It was a surreal feeling but we were really excited about it.”
Finally after seven-and-a-half months at John Radcliffe and a further two weeks at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Connor was taken home for the first time– with friends and family able to celebrate his first birthday earlier this month.
While the tot’s lungs continue to develop he is permanently on oxygen, but has been able to move onto smaller canisters after being dependent on a machine.
He continues to improve and mother Rachel is confident about the upcoming results of an eye test.
She said: “His birthday crept up very quickly and we had such a busy weekend, there were so many presents and people. We’re waiting to see what his development is like but at the moment he is just like an eight-month-old baby. He is not mobile yet but he rolls and loves his toys.”
Connor’s miraculous recovery adds to a number of other cases in which premature babies aged under 24 weeks have survived, despite guidance by the British Association of Perinatal Medicine stating that it is “in the best interests of the baby, and standard practice, for resuscitation not to be carried out”.
Rachel has called on the government and NHS to rexamine procedures surrounding premature births.
She said: “I think the cut off point and abortion limit should be lowered, considering what happened with Connor. With him they said that as my waters had broken and he didn’t come out then he shouldn’t have had a heartbeat, but he did.
“We had an agreement that they would help if he showed signs of life, I wouldn’t have wanted them to try for too long if there was no heartbeat.
“Without the transfer to John Radcliffe, Connor would not be here right now, at that age I believe they should be helped.”