A premature baby who was born at 28 weeks’ gestation was given only a 20 percent chance of surviving. However, he has beaten the odds stacked against him and achieved a milestone as he celebrated his first birthday.
Riley Patterson, from Aughnacloy, Northern Ireland, was born on June 20, 2019, weighing a mere 1 pound 12 ounces (approx. 794 g). According to RTE, baby Riley’s father, John, said that he was so small that the dad’s wedding ring could fit over his leg.
In his tiny course of life, baby Riley has suffered a host of health problems. The preemie was born with two holes in his heart, a metabolic disease, and chronic lung disease, and he even developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) twice, Caters News reported.
NEC is a serious disease that develops in premature infants affecting their intestine. The condition affects the inner lining of the large or small intestine causing it to become inflamed, according to The Healthline.
Riley’s mother, Victoria, told Caters News that a 20-week scan had confirmed that the unborn baby had a heart defect and doctors said that it was a ventricular septal defect (VSD).
“I started getting quite sick when I was pregnant,” Victoria said, “my blood pressure kept rising and I then developed pre-eclampsia which meant I was in the hospital every other week between week 23 and week 28.”
During Victoria’s 28th week of pregnancy, a consultant at the Royal Belfast Hospital said that the prognosis wasn’t good and asked nurses to prepare for emergency surgery. “They told me things weren’t looking good and that the main priority was to save my life so I was convinced that we wouldn’t have a baby by the end of the c-section,” Victoria said.
Recalling Riley’s day of birth, Victoria was terrified as there were 19 people in the operating theatre room. Doctors assured her that the newborn was breathing, but the new mom was allowed to hold her baby boy for only 30 seconds before he was whisked off to the intensive care unit of the hospital.
During the first month, Riley’s parents feared for his life and tried to enjoy each day as if it was the last. In the first six months of his life at the hospital, Riley showed incredible strength being a little fighter as medical personnel tried to save his life.
The baby boy was supposed to undergo open heart surgery when he was 8 weeks old but “he was too tiny to operate on.”
Then when he turned 4 months old, Riley underwent his first open-heart surgery in October 2019. Victoria shared that during this time, her baby boy had stopped taking bottles and was fitted with an NG feeding tube. Even after the surgery, his parents realized they needed to keep the NG tube in for some more time.
On one horrific night, Victoria said, “There was one point where he stopped breathing and the nurses had to resuscitate him—that was scary and one of the worst nights.”
However, Riley fought hard and after six months was allowed to join his family at home weighing 5 pounds (approx. 2 kg). “We settled in after a few days and became a proper little family,” Victoria shared.
In March this year, Riley underwent another life-saving heart surgery at the Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) as doctors feared he might have heart failure. The Patterson family was worried if their then-9-month-old baby would receive the care he needed because of the pandemic, according to RTE. However, they went ahead with surgery, and since then, Riley has been given an all-clear.
Now, as he celebrated his first birthday, his parents have been so delighted and amazed by him. “We had a little birthday for him [..] and it was great. He’s doing so well and we are so blessed to have him here with us,” Victoria said. “We were just enjoying every single day with him like it was going to be the last.”
Riley, who now weighs 14 pounds (approx. 7 kg), is still on an NG tube due to lack of liquid intake, but his family is definitely happy with his progress.
Victoria is also incredibly grateful to TinyLife, a premature baby charity in Northern Ireland, for their immense support they have provided her with during the first year of Riley’s life.
“I would encourage other moms to create a community with other premature moms,” Victoria said, “so that you have a support system of people who understand your situation and what you are going through.”
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