A baby in England has defied the odds despite arriving 17 weeks early and after his parents twice refused doctors’ advice of turning off his life support.
Little Chay Jefferys weighed just 1 pound when he was born at 23 weeks on June 2, 2021, and spent nine months fighting for his life and battling chronic lung disease.
His mother, Megan Mcgee, 19, had never expected that she'd give birth to a premature baby. Her pregnancy was going normal apart from her tooth infection.
‘'I was in such agony and being given all sorts of antibiotics—I can’t think of another reason that he would have been born so early,“ Megan, a full-time mom, said. ”The doctors agree with me that it was probably the antibiotics that triggered my early labor.”
Megan was relaxing at her mother’s house when she suddenly started to go into labor at just 23 weeks. After rushing to the hospital, she gave birth within hours of arriving.
Chay—who was born in his amniotic sack—was resuscitated by medics and rushed to intensive care before being transferred to University College London Hospital, Holborn.
‘‘When he was born, he didn’t cry as he wasn’t breathing,’‘ she said. ’'It was horrible not knowing what was going on, but a really lovely nurse took a little video of them working on him, so I had an idea of what was happening.”
Megan got a quick glimpse of Chay after he began breathing, but he was whisked away immediately.
When Chay—who was kept alive by a ventilator—was just 3 days old, doctors confirmed he had suffered grade four brain bleeds on both sides of his brain along with damage to the white matter and cerebellum.
Megan nestled a teddy bear beside Chay to comfort him while he was in an incubator in the neonatal intensive care unit at Hillingdon Hospital, Uxbridge, London.
“The teddy was pretty tiny, but Chay was so small, it swamped him,” Megan said. “It made us realize just how ... fragile he was.”
“It was so scary, Chay was so tiny, he fit in the palm of my hand,” she added.
At 3 weeks, his kidneys began to fail, and doctors twice advised the family to turn his life-support machine off, but both Megan and Chay’s dad, Bradley Jefferys, 22, an electrician, refused their suggestion to turn off their son’s life support.
‘‘I said ’no‘ right away, he had fought so hard I wasn’t going to give up on him,’‘ Megan said. “They kept suggesting it, but he just kept getting bigger and better and so eventually they stopped asking.’’
Despite his amazing progress, baby Chay’s lung disease meant that he was unable to leave the hospital for nine months, as he couldn’t yet breathe on his own.
But after 280 days in the hospital, he battled to full health and was allowed home to Hillingdon, West London—much to the delight of his big brother, Hugo, 18 months.
Now 9 months and weighing 13 pounds, Chay still has the bear—affectionately named “Bluey”—who has become a firm favorite. Chay, who is now proportionate in size with the bear, loves snuggling with it.
Megan says she thanks her lucky stars that Chay wasn’t born just a few days earlier as he wouldn’t have made the cutoff point, as babies born at 23 weeks are usually deemed too premature for doctors to treat.
She recalls being told that Chay would never be able to walk, talk, or smile, but he is now 9 months old, thriving, feeding, and smiling.
‘‘It’s been so nice giving him baths and having family over for cuddles,” she said. ’‘We’re so proud of him for coming this far.’’
Megan believes that Chay will be just like any other kid. Although he has a lot to catch up with, Megan believes that he soon will.
‘‘He still needs a bit of oxygen, but they think he’ll be off that in a few months too, it’s wonderful,“ Megan said. ”He’s having physio to help him with his mobility, which is really helping.”
Megan can’t wait to see Chay smile more and crawl about.
‘'Being at home has helped him loads already, he seems much more alert and is really grabbing for his toys and reacting to things,“ Megan said. ”He still loves cuddling up to Bluey, it’s so encouraging to see how much bigger he is now, shows just how far they’ve both come!
‘'Chay is our little hero.”