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Bliss advent calendar day two

Bettys story - Bliss

Welcome to day two of the Bliss Advent Calendar 2015. We will open a new window each day revealing stories and videos relating to special care babies and the work that Bliss does. Each day is kindly sponsored by a corporate partner, to help raise even more towards improving the outcomes for every baby born premature or sick in the UK.

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Back in time

Every year 80,000 babies are born needing urgent specialist care, but medical advances mean babies can now benefit from many life-saving treatments. This sort of technology wasn’t available when Betty Laity was born two months prematurely 81 years ago.

Betty was born on 9 August 1934 in Bridgend, South Wales, weighing just two pounds. At that time there were no incubators, and no machines to monitor a baby’s condition. She says: “Instead of being taken to a neonatal unit, I was simply wrapped in cotton wool and placed in a basket next to an open fire in the hospital, where I remained until my due date. I was never washed with water but wiped all over with olive oil. Having recently researched the equipment used to keep premature and sick babies alive, I realise just how lucky I am to have survived!”

BettyIn the two months Betty spent in hospital, her parents were unable to visit her: “My mother was quite ill after the unexpected birth and they had very little money as my father was an out of work coal miner. I was ten miles away from where they lived, which, although is a minor journey today, was a very difficult trip in 1934.”

Betty believes that the absence of her parents had a big impact on their relationship: “There was always a lack of closeness between my parents and me. I was already two months old when they received a letter telling them I was ready to be collected – it would have been like a stranger coming into the house and disrupting their routine.”

As she grew up, Betty encountered a lot of problems at school, and attributes this to her premature birth: “Teachers thought I wasn’t clever and that meant a lot of physical punishment. The cane was used frequently and it was not uncommon for me and another girl to have our heads knocked together. After leaving school, I discovered I had dyslexia. I wish that the worst of my teachers could see how I developed over the years - I am sure they would not have believed it!”

Betty has also suffered a variety of health problems: “I was born with bronchitis and have had chest problems, thyroid trouble, atrial fibrillation and arthritis. We will never know if these problems are linked to my premature birth or the conditions I lived in when I was growing up.”

Despite all the obstacles, Betty has gone on to lead a full life: “I have had a variety a jobs throughout my life, including at a ‘milk bar’ (coffee shop) when I was 17. It was there that I met my husband John - he’s convinced that I used to tip coffees over him to get his attention! We married at 22 and have had one daughter, who is 53. We also have a grandson, aged 22. John and I have travelled a lot over the years, visiting most of Europe, as well as Canada and America on numerous occasions.”

“I am now eighty one years old and I wanted to publish my story to show parents that it is possible for a premature baby to live a fruitful and happy life.”

If you'd like to support premature and sick babies like Betty please donate now


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