It’s the most wonderful time of the year for this young British family who is set to celebrate their first Christmas with their premature baby.
Baby Abel Farrelly weighed just 1 pound (approx. 454 g)—less than a can of soup—when he was born at 24 weeks in January.
Parents Charlotte Dunraven and Caldhan Farrelly, both 21, were forced to say goodbye to their tiny tot on two occasions. By the time he was 4 months old, Abel had undergone two major operations and 10 blood transfusions.
However, the optimistic parents, from Salford, Manchester, knew their son was a little fighter and refused to give up their baby, who spent a harrowing 132 days in the hospital.
Now, pictured smiling happily, Abel is a thriving healthy 11-month-old.
“We were over the moon when we were able to bring him home,” said mom Charlotte, who is a makeup artist. “The first thing we did was lie in bed altogether and just stare at our perfect little boy.”
Charlotte recalled that she was terrified when she went into labor at 24 weeks pregnant. She was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure.
Along with this, she was also diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, which is a rare liver and blood-clotting complication.
Charlotte said: “I had a miscarriage at 17 weeks in May 2019 so I was super nervous about this pregnancy.
“I had extra scans to be sure everything was fine.
“At 20 weeks, I was given the all clear but one month later things took a turn for the worst.
“I had a pain in my ribs along with a migraine which caused my eyesight to go.
“I was projective vomiting and my stomach was killing.”
The following day, Charlotte’s mom, who is a midwife, checked her blood pressure and advised her to go to North Manchester general hospital.
“I knew it wasn’t good as my mom went as white as a ghost,” Charlotte said, “but I didn’t think I was going to go into labor.”
The expecting mom was blue-lighted to Bolton hospital as Charlotte required an emergency C-section. Abel was born on Jan. 8 and taken straight into level three NICU. Charlotte was unable to see her little boy as she was in intensive care for two days.
Charlotte said: “I went completely numb when they said I have to deliver. I was put to sleep and didn’t get to meet my little boy until two days later. I never imagined the first time I would see my baby would be through a phone. It was horrible!”
When Abel was just 5 days old, doctors told Charlotte to say goodbye, as his lungs filled with blood.
“I dived out of the hospital bed and held onto my scar whilst sprinting to NICU,” Charlotte said.
“He looked lifeless and there was blood in the incubator as it was coming out of his mouth from his lungs.”
“I still get upset just thinking about the awful sight. I was heartbroken.”
Medics were unable to oxygenate Abel and assumed he would be severely brain damaged if he was to make it.
The chaplain arrived but Charlotte refused the service because she knew her baby son wasn’t going to die.
“I had already lost one baby so Abel was already a huge blessing. I knew he wasn’t going to leave me,” she said. “I could tell he was a feisty little fighter as they sedated him on the maximum dose and his legs were still kicking.”
“He wasn’t giving up and neither was I,” she added.
It took a few days for Abel to stabilize, but he slowly started to get “stronger by the minute” until Charlotte’s 21st birthday, which was eight days later. Tiny Abel’s lungs had collapsed, and the young parents were forced to say goodbye again.
“Caldhan and I jumped into the car and drove to the hospital during the early hours of the morning,” Charlotte said.
“It was awful—we were so scared. We hadn’t even held him yet,” she said. “The doctors said it’s not looking good as they couldn’t oxygenate him again.”
“I remember crying the whole way because I was so scared. I didn’t want to lose another baby,” she added.
Baby Abel fought for his life with his parents by his side.
Thankfully, Abel recovered and they were able to hold him for the very first time at 3 weeks old. Both parents admit it was daunting as they feared detaching one of many wires or tubes. However, their joy soon turned to sorrow when medics discovered a grade two brain bleed.
“We were delighted to finally hold him but it was scary as he was tiny,” Charlotte said. “Things seemed to be on the up but we soon realized every step forward meant 10 steps back.”
“We were told he could have brain damage or cerebral palsy. It was heart-wrenching.”
Luckily, the brain bleed resolved itself and a hole in his heart closed up without surgery. Things were on the up until his left lung collapsed again and he was reventilated.
“It really was an emotional rollercoaster,” Charlotte said. “He was diagnosed with chronic lung disease which is pretty common for premature babies.”
“I spent every single day by his side which was tough as Caldhan wasn’t able to come in at the same time. We would alternate but it was hard to not have my partner there when I needed a shoulder to cry on,” she said.
“Sitting in the waiting room alone whilst he had laser eye surgery was nerve-wracking. But I knew my boy would be fine as he had already defied the odds.”
Abel was 4 months old when he was treated for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disease that can lead to blindness. If the little one hadn’t already been through enough, he required another surgery to remove a hernia, which was the size of Charlotte’s hand, from his groin.
“It is mind-blowing how resilient he was,” she said. “It didn’t matter what happened—he never gave up. He had his final surgery three days before we could take him home.”
In May, the day had finally come for the parents to take their incredibly strong baby home.
“We always knew he was going to come home at some point,” she said. “It felt like we were waiting for a lifetime to take him home. “May 24 will always be a special day for us as it was truly the happiest day ever.”
The family is now looking forward to their very first Christmas. Abel is living proof that miracles do come true.
Charlotte said: “He is such a funny little boy and he is reaching all of his milestones. He is the greatest gift we could ever have for Christmas and we can’t wait to spoil him rotten. He deserves it!”
The proud and grateful mom thanked the NHS staff by crowdfunding over approximately US$2,400 (1,800 pound sterlings) for the NICU unit at North Manchester General Hospital.
She praises the staff for their professionalism and treated the premature babies to swinging chairs.
“I will be forever grateful for the doctors and nurses,” she said. “They were amazing. I never expected to raise so much money through GoFundMe.”
“The money was a ’thank-you’ for everything they had done for my boy and to help the other babies who are not getting all the interaction and stimulation they need when moms and dads can’t be there.”
Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.