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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2007, 02:17 GMT
The costs of bringing up baby early
Sam as a newborn
Sam as a newborn...
The premature baby charity Bliss has called on the government to do more to ease the financial burden on parents whose children are born early.

Dawn's son Sam arrived very prematurely at 25 weeks. Here the mother from Newcastle describes how she and her husband coped.

I was getting up to go to work when my waters broke. Sam was born a few hours later. He was tiny - weighing just over 1lb.

It was very much touch-and-go from the outset, and things went from bad to worse. Within 10 days he had had seven different infections, a massive brain haemorrhage, renal and heart failure.

He needed transfusions, but he was so small they couldn't actually get enough cannulas into his veins to do it.

We were always prepared to withdraw intensive care if we felt that Sam was telling us he had enough, and that night we went home and prepared the house. We wanted to bring him home to die.

And then we went back into the hospital, and they said: "Actually, he's got a bit better." It was the first of many miracles.

He was in intensive care for seven months, and then in a children's ward for another two. He came home at nine months.

I look back now and wonder how we kept it together in that period.

Working night shifts

I was very lucky with my employers. I work for a learning disability charity, and although I had only been with them for eight months, they gave me my full maternity pay.

Sam at two with his mum and dad
...and Sam celebrating his second birthday

But we were caught so short. Normally when you have a baby - and ours wasn't planned anyway - you have time to save. You have nine months to plan. We didn't have that. There were bills we wanted to have paid off before the baby arrived, things we wanted to buy.

And everything was so expensive. We were paying 12 a day just to park in the hospital, that's before all the meals we had to eat there, and what we spent to get there.

My husband is a taxi driver, so he's self-employed. He wanted to be there for me and Sam so he took time off work before going back for a few hours a day.

But he was starting to suffer from back pain, and it wasn't long before he was diagnosed with a benign, but large, tumour, on his back.

We put the operation off because we were already falling behind on the mortgage and all sorts of other bills, and if he couldn't work at all we would have been finished.

We were borrowing money off my mum just to afford the petrol to get to the hospital.

It rapidly became clear that I would have to go back to work - full time - if we weren't to go under. Sam was still in neonatal intensive care.

I worked night shifts. I had to. That way I could spend the day at the hospital.

Just a little bit

I gave up work when Sam came home. He needed so much care - he was oxygen dependent.

If there had just been something to bridge the gap, anything, it would have been such a help
Dawn

It actually became much easier then because the benefits kicked in - as well as the child benefit I also get a carer's allowance because of the extra care Sam needs.

The irony was that if we had been on benefits before all this had started, we would have been fine. But the average family who works is actually penalised in this situation.

If there had just been something to bridge the gap, anything, it would have been such a help.

We were even struggling to afford clothes to dress him in as premature baby clothes are about 20 a go.

I would love another child.

But at the moment we simply cannot risk going through all that again.

SEE ALSO
Premature babies 'cost parents'
29 Nov 07 |  Health
The 'double bombshell'
11 Jul 06 |  Health

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