Lion’s fight for life

17 Dec 2021

The journey to falling pregnant can be an exciting but emotional rollercoaster. For first-time parents, Evelyn and Iu, all they ever wanted was to start a family.

In 2019 they started their IVF journey and after struggles with fertility, put all their hopes into a single embryo. Fortunately, they were blessed to fall pregnant with their miracle twins, Lion and Anna. 

Like most first-time parents to-be, the pair celebrated every milestone of Evelyn’s pregnancy - from her first scan and growing bump to the twin’s very first kicks. Everything appeared textbook perfect but on one morning in early April, she felt something wasn’t quite right so decided to get it checked out.

“It was the best decision I ever made because it saved my children,” said Evelyn.

Routine tests later revealed Evelyn had a weakened cervix and was at risk of losing her two babies. The family had no choice but to make the heartbreaking decision to deliver their ‘micro-premature’ babies via emergency caesarean.

Born at just 24 + 3 weeks gestation, the twins entered the world weighing less than a  bag of flour – the scales read only 742 grams for Anna and 947 grams for Lion.

The twins spent nine weeks in hospital under close observation but just when the twins started showing significant signs of improvement,, Lion’s condition took a turn for the worse. He had contracted a cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. 

At 1am on 7 July, during Sydney’s latest COVID-19 lockdown, Lion was transferred by the Newborn and paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS) to Sydney Children’s Hospitals, Randwick (SCH) to receive the urgent care he needed. For hours it was very touch-and-go. 

His belly was distended and his neck was severely swollen. Lion needed antibiotics immediately but with weak veins and his body still so small, inserting a central line was almost impossible.   Doctors told Evelyn to prepare for the worst - they didn’t think Lion would survive.  

“As a mother going through it all, you have to be real. When the doctor told us to prepare, I was preparing in my mind to say goodbye. As hurtful as it is, you take everything on the doctors say because you don’t have time.” 

In a last attempt, doctors tried inserting Lion’s central line  through his neck in hopes of him responding to medication. This was their last chance to save Lion’s life and thankfully it worked. 

His little body started taking to the medication straight away. Lion was fighting back. 

Lion remained in the Children’s Intensive Care Unit for 12 days, with Evelyn and Iu splitting their time between Lion at SCH and Anna, who was still being cared for at their local hospital. 

A couple of days later, the NETS nurse who transferred Lion popped in to check on him. 

“It really touched me because I didn’t get the chance to meet any of the angels from NETS. Meeting that lady gave me hope and I knew he would be okay,” said Evelyn.

Lion is now at home and recovering well. He weighs 4.5kg and is excelling in his eating, with his physiotherapists and occupational therapists impressed by his progress. His sister Anna is also making progress, but both still have a long road ahead.

Evelyn and Iu hope to share their story to advocate for other couples out there who have gone through a complex premature baby journey and can’t thank the hospital staff enough for their support during the most traumatic period of their lives.

“All of the staff at Randwick were amazing. The level of professionalism the nurses had, the way they interact with the children was amazing. I had never experienced a children’s hospital before. It was very bright, colourful and even the personalities of the staff were very colourful,” said Evelyn. 

“I always say to my husband that we’re so fortunate to live in a country where healthcare is amazing. Every day, when looking at Lion, I couldn’t imagine my world without him.”  

You can help give sick kids just like Lion. Donate today.

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