A LITTLE girl given only a 30% chance of survival before she was born has celebrated her fifth birthday.
Mum-to-be Jayne Fenton defied doctors who advised her to terminate her pregnancy at 20 weeks.
Though daughter Niamh was born with only half a lung she was a little fighter and battled her way back to health.
Niamh started school in September and now lives a completely normal life.
Jayne, 41, of Jackson Bridge, said: “Niamh is our little miracle. To see her now makes it all worthwhile.”
Jayne, a teacher at Grange Moor Primary School, told how she and husband Andy, also 41, were given a shock diagnosis at the regular 20-week scan.
Doctors broke the news that their unborn child had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia.
This means the diaphragm had not developed properly and the intestines and stomach were growing where the lungs should be.
“We went to the scan expecting to be told whether our baby was a boy or a girl and came back having been told we should terminate the pregnancy,” said Jayne, who already had a son Keir, now eight.
“They said there was only a 30-40% chance of survival when she was born and that even if she did survive she could have terrible problems.
“She may need oxygen all her life or have problems eating and have to be fed through a tube.”
Jayne and Andy had just 48 hours to make a decision on whether to end the pregnancy.
But for them there was no decision to make.
“If someone says you have a 30%-40% chance of winning the Lottery you would put a few quid on, wouldn’t you?” said Jayne.
“There was still a good chance she would be fine and we decided to go ahead.”
Jayne admitted the second half of the pregnancy became “quite traumatic” but she never had any regrets.
“We didn’t want to buy anything for the baby or decorate the nursery. We knew that if the worst happened we would have to take it all back,” said Jayne.
“I just bought one little dress in case she needed something when she was born.”
Jayne and Andy had to discuss what no prospective parents should have to talk about – funeral arrangements for an unborn child.
“To have to think about a funeral was awful but we had to be prepared.
“The rest of the pregnancy had its ups and downs. Some days you felt okay but others you were upset.
“It was hard for family and friends too. Some just didn’t know what to say to us.”
Jayne was induced at 38 weeks and gave birth at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) with all the specialists on hand.
“It was a normal, straightforward birth but as soon as Niamh was born she was whisked away and put on a ventilator,” said Jayne.
She did okay for the first 48 hours but then caught an infection and needed very strong antibiotics.
At six-days-old tiny Niamh had surgery to repair the hernia and her lungs started to grow and re-inflate.
Forty-eight hours later her left lung collapsed and further surgery was needed.
All this time she was under sedation and she was 14 days old before she opened her eyes. Two days later Jayne held her daughter for the first time.
“That was a fantastic moment,” she said. “Niamh had been through such trauma.”
After four weeks in the LGI Niamh was transferred to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and was home at six weeks – a week before Christmas.
When Niamh reached a year old her parents began to relax.
“Once she started to reach all the normal milestones – walking, talking and teething – we knew she was going to be all right,” said Jayne.
Niamh’s only significant health problem is moderate to severe deafness in both ears which may have been the result of the ventilation or the strong antibiotics.
“That is a small price to pay,” said Jayne.
“Niamh is full of life, a typical five-year-old, perfectly healthy and normal.
“We’re just so pleased we decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. It was a brave decision but the right decision.”
Niamh attends Hepworth Junior and Infant School and will have a princesses and pirates party with her friends this week.
Congenital diaphragmatic hernia occurs in one in 2,000-5,000 births and accounts for 8% of all major congenital defects.