A little girl, who has spent the first six months of her life in hospital, is getting ready to go home for the first time, to be reunited with her twin sister and family.
Grace and Olivia Oman arrived on July 26 last year, three months premature, each weighing just 1lb 14oz and were put on ventilators straight away at Wansbeck General Hospital.
They were transferred to the neo-natal intensive care unit at Middlesborough’s James Cook Hospital, where they stayed for the next 14 weeks.
On November 6, the twins were split up when Olivia was discharged and Grace was moved to Newcastle’s RVI as she still had problems breathing.
But it is hoped that by the beginning of March, Grace’s family will be to take her home for the first time to be with her sister, older brother Jake, three, and her mum Vicki and dad Mark, in Hadston.
Vicki, 28, said: “It has been such an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you think things are going in the right direction, and then you take 10 steps back. It feels never-ending.
“But now to have in sight that she is going to come home and we will have them both together and be a family is just fantastic. To have all three of my babies at home, together, is a dream. I don’t have the words to sum up what it has been like. It has been the hardest time of my life.”
There was even more emotional trauma for Vicki as the twins were originally triplets but the third baby, who they named Eleanor, died when Vicki was 14 weeks pregnant.
Now the family want to say thank you to the hospitals that helped save the babies’ lives and friends and family for their support, and have raised nearly £2,000 in the process.
Rising more than £2,000 to help the hospitals that saved her daughters’ lives, mum Vicki Oman has paid tribute to those who have given undivided care and support.
Born at just 26 weeks, at Wansbeck General Hospital, non-identical twins Grace and Olivia Oman were a tiny 1lb 14oz each.
Because they were so premature, the girls were very poorly and immediately ventilated.
The same day, they were transferred to the James Cook hospital at Middlesbrough, because Newcastle’s RVI was full, and stayed there for the next 14 weeks.
It meant that Vicki, 28, a paediatric staff nurse, spent her weeks in a flat in the city, while dad Mark, 26, and son Jake, now three, were at home in Hadston and could only visit at weekends.
It was extra heartache for the family, who had already lost one baby.
Vicki had originally been carrying triplets, but when she was 14 weeks pregnant, she lost one, who they named Eleanor.
And it was then that difficulties started. The waters around Grace broke and there were concerns that the family might lose her as she didn’t have enough fluid around her for her lungs to develop properly.
But she managed to build the waters back up.
Then at 24 weeks, Vicki’s waters went completely and she was admitted to hospital with contractions.
A week later she was allowed home although pains were continuing.
And at 10pm on July 25, they intensified and around four hours later both babies had been delivered.
“Without the nurse practitioner, George, at Wansbeck, my babies wouldn’t be here now,” Vicki said.
“I owe everything to him.
“They were taken to Middlesbrough and I went the next day. The nurses and doctors on the neo-natal intensive care unit were fantastic. There were a few touch-and-go times where they stopped breathing, or they pulled their tubes out.
“It was really, really hard to see them going through it all.”
On November 6, Olivia was discharged from hospital, while Grace had to stay in and was transferred to Newcastle’s RVI.
Grace has floppy airways which means she needs help breathing. She has a tracheostomy, which will stay in for the next two to three years, and is also on a ventilator until she is strong enough to be able to cope by herself.
But despite that, she is a smiley, happy little girl and loves having her sister beside her.
“She loves smiling and playing,” Vicki said. “Both Olivia and Grace are doing really well and reaching the same milestones as each other.
“It has been hard for Jake. He is very close to me and it was hard for him, and me, to be away for that long. But he took it all in his stride.
“He loves having Olivia home, but he misses Grace.”
And the family has found inspiration in little Harry Wintrip, who also features in today’s Gazette.
Harry, one, also had floppy airways and now that his breathing tube has been removed, it has given Vicki a boost.
“Harry was here when Grace first came in and seeing how he has come on has been a real inspiration, it makes you realise that it does get better,” she said.
Vicki and Mark, who works at Blackshaws in Alnwick, are now getting their house prepared for Grace coming home, hopefully at the beginning of March.
They have had to put in extra plug sockets, organise medical supplies and coordinate with the community nursing team to make sure the house is safe for the baby.
And there are certain tasks which have to be undertaken.
This week, Vicki took Grace out in the car for the first time. The family also has to take her home for a night among other tasks.
But Vicki added: “It’s all worth it.”
To say thank-you to the hospitals, two fund-raising events were held. A coffee morning took place at Hadston Community Centre and a Hallowe’en disco at Red Row Brick Club.
In total, £1,800 was raised, which will be split between Wansbeck and the James Cook.
Vicki added: “It is really important for the babies to have breast milk because their guts are so immature. So there are a lot of women expressing. I produced quite a lot of milk, so much so that it was taking up a lot of room in the freezer, so we bought them a new freezer.
“We are also giving them £1,000 and £500 to the Special Care Baby Unit at Wansbeck.
“The support in the whole community has been amazing. We can’t thank people who have supported us enough and the businesses that donated prizes that helped raise money.”