Brave new mother Tracy Georgiou will leave Liverpool Women's Hospital next week knowing that she and her son Lucas are both lucky to be alive. She says they only survived because of the care they received at the hospital.
Dark haired Lucas was born on April 29 this year, only 23 weeks into her pregnancy, giving the tiny infant only a 25 per cent chance of survival.
He was delivered by emergency caesarean; weighing only 1lb 8z after Tracy developed the very rare condition placenta abrupta and nearly died. This is where the placenta comes away from the womb, causing life threatening haemorrhage and shock and is so rare it happens to less than 1 per cent of pregnant women.
While Lucas fought for life on the Neonatal Unit, his mother lay close to death for 24 hours in the hospital’s High Dependency Unit, with her devastated husband Costa at her bedside. She didn’t realise she had a son until three days after he was born.
Now after months of worry, during which his parents spent long hours by his incubator, watching him fight for life, the family are joyously taking him home to West Derby
When they finally take Lucas home, four days before his due date of August 16 and weighing 5lb 3oz, Tracy,31, husband Costa, 36, and their older children, Johnathan, 12, and Antonia, 11, will feel as though they have finally come through a double nightmare.
Their ordeal is all the more amazing because Tracy had suffered a life-threatening placenta abrupta before in August last year, when she was 18 weeks pregnant. She nearly died then and tragically lost their daughter Sophia, after being rushed by ambulance for life-saving transfusions and treatment at Liverpool Women's. "I haemorrhaged so badly and had to have so many blood transfusions that at one time I didn't have a drop of my own blood in my body," says Tracy, who knew nothing of what was happening to her.
“I had never heard of placenta abrupta until then. My births with Johnathan and Antonia had been natural and were fine," says Tracy. "After the first time it happened, I tried to get back to normality but I felt there was something missing in my life - I think that was Sophia."
When she found she was pregnant again in November last year, so soon after losing Sophie, she and Costa had mixed emotions. "We were happy but also frightened. But Placenta Abrupta is so rare I didn't think it could happen to me twice," says Tracy.
"I tried to be positive about it but I was living on the edge until we got to 18 weeks in case it happened again. After that, I started to enjoy the pregnancy."
But on April 29 this year, at 23 weeks, Costa. a chef, got a phone call in work to say that Tracy was haemorrhaging again, after collapsing at her cousin Natasha Moussallis' house.
"I was just coming down the stairs when I started bleeding severely again" says Tracy, who remembers nothing else. "I went into shock. Tasha saved mine and Lucas's life by acting quickly to call an ambulance, talking to staff on the phone about how to stem the bleeding while I was drifting in and out of consciousness."
At Liverpool Women's the fight was on again to save Tracy's life but for Costa there was one piece of amazing news. "Monitors showed that the baby's heartbeat was strong and that he was kicking away. Tracy was taken through for an emergency C section during which they took Lucas out of the amniotic sac and rushed him through to Neonatal Intensive Care. But he wasn't expected to survive."
Tracy didn't know until three days afterwards that her baby was alive. Said Costa: "They said she would make a full recovery in time but another pregnancy would kill her."
Mentally and physically exhausted, Tracy held on to the fact that Lucas was alive although he faced a long journey, as did she and Costa. "Every minute, every second, every hour counted. Because he was so premature, he had a heart valve problem which didn't respond to medication. So at six weeks old on June 7 he was "bluelighted" to Alder Hey for a heart operation. We watched him going into theatre, knowing that he might not survive that. But he did and it was a turning point. From that day he never looked back.
"Then a few weeks ago we were told he had problems with his eyes which could affect his sight. He had an emergency procedure done on the Neonatal unit to prevent blindness. That too was successful. The doctors say he is a real life miracle. But we can never thank the hospital enough, his nurses, his consultant and everyone else, for giving such amazing care to Lucas that he is finally able to come home to us."
Tracy is longing to place Lucas in his cot after months of looking at him through an incubator. "He has evolved in front of our eyes, we have watched what should have been happening in my womb. I wished every day that I could put him back inside my body where he should be. Now I am ecstatic to be taking him home. Winning the lottery couldn't top how we feel now.
"Antonia and Jonathan have been through so much with us. Antonia has been very frightened. Twice she thought I was going to die and she has had to have counselling. We have told her that Sophia sent Lucas - because his due date, August 16, is the day we lost Sophia.”
Mr Bill Yoxall, Clinical Director of the Neonatal Unit which cares for more than 1000 neonates a year from all over the region and beyond, said that national figures show that only 25-30 per cent of babies born at 23 weeks gestation survive to go home.
"Lucas has had a lot of challenges to face due his extreme prematurity, but has battled through them all and we are delighted that he is going home to his family. They have been very strong through some extremely difficult times and we are delighted that they are able to take their son home."