Pre-term baby research – Essie’s story

Finding hope, when all hope was lost

Please help fund vital research and give other babies like Essie the chance to live a healthy life, free from serious disability.


A desparate mum's only hope

When mum Elke fell pregnant after years of trying to have a second child, she was ecstatic—but also terrified. Three years earlier, she had been through unimaginable heartbreak when she lost a baby girl at 21 weeks. 

“I just couldn’t bear to lose another baby. I was absolutely terrified of going through that again.”

When Elke’s labour began at just 22 weeks it looked like her worst nightmare was coming true. She was rushed to the one place in Queensland that offered her hope: Mater Mothers’ Hospital. There, our specialists did everything possible to give her baby a fighting chance.

The birthplace of one in seven Queenslanders and more than 10 000 new babies each year, Mater is an internationally-recognised leader in neonatal research, translating learnings from the lab to the hospital bedside to deliver improved health outcomes for mums like Elke and their babies.​

A terrifing wait

At only five months pregnant, Elke had to stay in hospital on strict bed rest for the rest of her pregnancy.

At 28 weeks Elke developed an infection and was rushed to surgery for an emergency caesarean. Shortly after midnight, weighing barely a kilo, her tiny Essie was born. She was whisked straight into neonatal critical care and put on respiratory support.

“I couldn't even say to myself ‘This is going to be all right’, because I knew that it really might not be. I had to take it moment-by-moment to try and get through.”

Elke, Essie's mum

“They wheeled me past her and I wasn't allowed to touch her, but I lay next to her and looked at her, covered in tubes, thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, you are so tiny. How are you ever going to fight?”

Thankfully, Mater’s team of specialists, neonatologists, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals – and Australia’s largest Neonatal Critical Care Unit—are here to care for tiny babies like Essie from the moment they are born. ​

A life in the balance

Essie was alive, but the odds were stacked against her.

For a baby like Essie, born 12 weeks premature, the risk of having a serious disability like cerebral palsy is greatly increased. Cerebral palsy can lead to chronic pain and life-long physical and intellectual impairments—and there’s no known cure.

It’s only through research that we can improve the odds for tiny babies like Essie. And to make this happen, we urgently need your help.

Please will you help continue vital research to help tiny babies like Elke’s survive their perilous early birth—and go on to live a full, healthy life?

Your gift today will help fund crucial research that is taking place right here in Brisbane, including a world-first study into magnesium sulphate therapy that could finally lower the risk of cerebral palsy for pre-term babies.

A little miracle

After ten weeks of specialised, around-the-clock care at Mater, Essie was well enough to go home with her delighted family. Now three, she is a happy and cheeky toddler.


“There is no way Essie would have survived without the care that she got at Mater—or without all the research that has been done to improve outcomes for premmie babies. It’s just humbling.”