Lee-Ann’s father shares her incredible story of survival against all odds…
Lee-Ann was born at 24 weeks gestation with her twin sister Jamie-Lee at Warrington hospital on 22nd June 1995. Lee-Ann weighed 1lb 6ozs and Jamie-Lee weighed 1lb 8ozs and both were put on emergency oxygen as the hospital could not support twins in the neonatal unit. Soon after the twins were transferred to the neonatal unit at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. By this time the chances of Jamie-Lee’s survival were considered to be quite strong but Lee-Ann’s were very low and she had to have lung surgery within the first 24 hours of being born. The twins were also given experimental drugs developed at Liverpool University intended to give them a much better chance of survival.
Every day it was a struggle to walk to the neonatal unit to visit the twins. It almost felt like someone had put lead in my shoes as we would expect neither of them to survive because they were so small. This was especially true of Lee-Ann being so tiny and having so many issues with her lungs followed by countless blood transfusions to keep her alive. On the second day the worst happened: we were told that one of the twins had suffered a sudden bleed and was being kept alive only by the respirator and this would need to be turned off. At this shocking news we automatically started to grieve Lee-Ann because we assumed she had died. In fact it was the strongest twin Jamie-Lee who had died. This lead us to wonder about the smaller Lee-Ann’s chances of survival and everyday became harder and harder.
Lee-Ann gained strength after Jamie-Lee’s death and she was moved from the neonatal unit to the oxygen dependent ward, an encouraging step indicating that she would be OK and one day come home. This hope was only set back when Lee-Ann experienced breathing difficulties and had to be returned to the neonatal unit once again fighting for survival. On the 12th August Lee-Ann was in the neonatal unit with all the machines turned up to the maximum as this was her only hope because her breathing had become so bad. We were told to expect the worst and to be very proud of Lee-Ann whatever happened because she was a little fighter to have survived so long. On the 15th August 1995 the machines started to beep and staff on the ward ran around like mad to find out what the matter was: Lee-Ann had somehow removed the ventilator from her mouth and throat and this is what had caused panic on the ward. To everyone’s surprise Lee-Ann was once again breathing on her own. The doctors just gave her oxygen for the following 6 hours and her vital signs remained stable. The following day she was put back on the oxygen dependent ward where she stayed until mid September when she was finally discharged and came home for the first time.
Lee-Ann remained on oxygen for 8 months until she no longer needed it. During this time she gradually came off her treatments to allow lung development and by the age of 1 she was treatment free. Lee-Ann went on to walk at 4 years old and started to enjoy school. During this time she also found a love of conversation and would talk constantly about most things happening at school and home. In her early teens she also developed a love for music and she would listen to all types of music and enjoy attending concerts. Now she is nearly 18 and very healthy although she does suffer from asthma. She has grown to 4 feet 7 inches tall which is quite small but her height does not trouble Lee-Ann in everyday life. Lee-Ann likes to listen to music after college on Youtube or on her sound system for hours and loves to attend arenas and theatres to see live music. She likes keeping in contact with friends she has known in the past using Facebook and the rest of the time loves a good chat with people. She also loves going to Butlins in Skegness every year and attend conventions where she meets famous people like David Tennant, Eve Myles, Nicola Bryant and Billie Piper – to name a few.
Lee-Ann is currently fundraising for The Newborn Appeal to help with the purchase of neonatal equipment for the Liverpool Women’s Hospital. She is looking forward to leaving college at 19 and to work as a secretary in an office environment as she has been on work experience at college doing this type of work and really enjoys it.
Lee-Ann lives in Wigan with me her dad and her 13 year old sister Kate but she likes to pay regular visits to her mum to spend quality time with her and her half siblings Bryan and Robyn. Lee-Ann is doing well at college in all subjects, especially drama. She is part of the Connect 2 dance group that perform to other schools and at the Lowry Centre in Salford.
It is nice to see Lee-Ann live the full life that she battled so hard for when she was born, and I as her father hope that all her dreams come true in adult life.