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Life was great and going to plan. Kirstin was fit, healthy and looking forward to the birth of her second child, Zion, in 12 weeks. She was enjoyinng a typical Saturday... then everything changed in a flash.
Kirstin felt a ‘pop’ and started losing blood—her placenta ruptured, causing Zion to spiral into fetal distress. His heart rate was dropping significantly and fast.
Rushed to hospital with no time to waste, Kirstin delivered Zion by emergency caesarean that night.
Born at 28 weeks, Zion weighed just 840 grams and was too fragile to survive on his own.
“He was so small, so frail—I was so frightened for him,” Kirstin said.
Zion urgently needed medical attention and was transferred to Mater Mothers' Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU), where he received lifesaving, around-the-clock care. For the next 80 days that followed at Mater, Kirstin said, “he was cared for by some of the most outstanding people I have ever met.”
"The first few days of Zion's miracle journey at Mater were a heartbreaking blur for me.
“We sat and watched his incredible body try its hardest to keep going. At one week, Zion crashed, and our hearts sank. He had a massive bleed which covered a quarter of his brain, putting him at significant risk of Cerebral Palsy and other complications.
"Thankfully, he was exactly where he needed to be, with the amazing doctors, nurses and machines at Mater to keep him alive.
“I got my very first Kangaroo cuddle after 15 day—the day after Mother’s Day—it was incredibly emotional. We sat for hours finally experiencing the skin-to-skin contact we both desperately needed,” she said.
In the days and weeks ahead, Zion developed other complications—he received two blood and platelet transfusions and was diagnosed with chronic lung disease. Despite this, as well as fighting a series of infections, Zion started to grow well—he was gaining weight and getting stronger.
“Zion’s lungs were slowly maturing, and after 60 days, he was transferred to high flow oxygen and began to tolerate breast milk. He was opening his eyes to have a look around and could hear us talking and singing to him. He’d turned the corner.
“Those small but vital milestones like bathing, wearing clothes and breastfeeding, were such a celebration, not just for our family but for the staff at Mater as well—we all felt a sense of accomplishment,” she recalled.
"Premature babies often do a dance of one step forward and three steps back. But one day they'll jump two steps and hit the ground running forward. That’s our Zion!”
All up, Zion spent 33 days in Mater Mothers’ NCCU, 21 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and 26 days in the Special Care Nursery.
Five years on, Zion is enjoying his first year of prep. Despite his incredibly bumpy start to life, he has shown what a true fighter he is—beating the odds of Cerebral Palsy.
“Zion’s lungs are fully developed and strong, and he has fantastic vision. He does have Global Development Delay and requires speech therapy, but apart from this, has had no lasting health complications affecting his daily life. While some milestones may have taken a little longer to reach, it just made them even more reason to celebrate!
“We are very blessed to have these opportunities, thanks to all of the wonderful doctors and nurses at Mater. I will forever hold them close to my heart for giving my son the chance to thrive in life.
“One of the nurses comments stays with me to this day. She said, ‘premature babies often do a dance of one step forward and three steps back. But one day they'll jump two steps and hit the ground running forward’. And that’s our Zion!”
Unfortunately, stories like Zion’s are more common than you may think. More than 2000 seriously ill and premature babies come to Mater Mothers’ NCCU each year to receive specialised care.
You can help these Mater little miracles receive the best possible start in life.
Every dollar raised, no matter how small, goes a long way towards helping Mater researchers to find out more about premature birth and make a difference to the lives of Mater little miracles and their families.