For International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day, we are pleased to be able to share Leigh Dumingham's amazing story. Leigh’s son Warwick was born prematurely and, at three weeks old, she was told that he had an hour to live. Leigh took her son out of the incubator and placed him on her chest to say goodbye. Incredibly, Warwick eventually started to recover, and Leigh believes the skin-to-skin care she gave in hospital and at home saved her son’s life.
When the day comes to take your three week old preemie out of his incubator, release him from the wires and the breathing apparatus and just let him go, it is very surreal but all too real at the same time.
Our teeny weenie was so sick that after several conversations with the consultants we knew the right thing to do was to let him go and rest peacefully.
We were told he would probably only live for about an hour because he had not managed to breathe unaided for a few days by then. We had him baptised immediately and as soon as we were alone in the room I instinctively placed him on my chest. It was so amazing to have him on me with no wires and cannulas. It was just his precious skin against mine.
He was wearing an apnea monitor so that we would be alerted when he stopped breathing and was about to go. The monitor went off several times and we noticed his upper lip turning a shade of blue.
We were totally unaware of time passing but we did realise that night had come. I needed to go to the toilet so my husband placed our little one back in the incubator to help me up and for the first time we heard a squeal. We realised it was our Wee man. He made sound! He was crying. He didn't want to go back in there! As soon as my husband held him, he stopped crying. He knew what he liked and it wasn't the incubator.
He went back down my top and we all fell asleep. We were woken several times during the night by the monitor when he had stopped breathing. In total it happened 18 times in the first 24 hours. The first few times the monitor beeped we tapped his little chest to remind him to breathe and then after several times we agreed we had to stop doing that because we were going against his wishes in letting him go. It was so hard to sit there and watch him stop breathing but then we would see him gasp and his tiny chest would start moving again. He started breathing all by himself!
The nurses came in every 2 hours to give him his gravity feed and we were just lying together on the bed with our precious person on my chest. If we removed him from my chest for any reason he would instantly cry and then as soon as he made contact with my chest again he stopped. It became quite a cute trick!
We were together in that private room for eight days and eight nights. He most definitely lasted longer than an hour! Our little man was on me like glue and when they allowed us to go home with palliative care, he remained in the same place.
Our teeny weenie is our miracle man as he stayed with us. He's now eight years old and the power of skin to skin is a life saver. He didn't 'suit' the incubator. He wanted real love and touch. He craved Mommy's warmth, safety and smell and he felt content when he had it. It felt normal for him and he felt better when he was on me. He loved it so much that our kangaroo care cuddles made him strong enough to fight to stay with us.
That is my experience of the power of skin to skin.
Leigh's experiences led her to set up Vija Design, which produces the UK's leading range of skin to skin clothing and proudly supports Bliss. Vija Design are selling special kangaroo care day t-shirts, which they hope will raise £1,000 for Bliss, to coincide with International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day. Pick up your t-shirt by visiting their website.