Published: 12:00, 02 September 2016
Little Henry Cooper has lived up to his namesake after a battle for survival when he was born 17 weeks early.
The cheeky tot was cheering on his mum and other family members when they did a 5k run to raise money for the baby unit which saved his life.
On Boxing Day last year, 22 weeks and six days into her pregnancy, mum Nicki was admitted to hospital with labour pains.
At first she was first told there was nothing doctors could do because she was not yet 23 weeks. National NHS guidelines are to only resuscitate babies born at 23 weeks or above because the chance of survival is close to zero before this. At 23 weeks it is 15%.
Nicki, who was expecting twin boys, was three hours away from 23 weeks. She was given drugs to stop the contractions and although they did not work, they did give her those all important few hours.
The boys were born the following day, weighing just 1lb 2oz, and taken to the Oliver Fisher Special Care Baby Unit at Medway Maritime Hospital.
After 24 hours Archie took a turn for the worse so the only option was for Nicki and husband Kevin to take him out of the incubator for a cuddle and he passed away peacefully in their arms.
But Henry continued to fight on, battling several infections and a collapsed lung.
Nicki said: “We didn’t really get time to grieve. After the second day we had to focus on Henry. We were living every day not knowing what was going to happen.
“Things could change so rapidly that you just had to take them an hour at a time.”
On April 18, after 114 days in hospital, Nicki and Kevin were finally able to take home their little bundle, dressed in a Superman baby grow.
During his three months on the ward, Nicki had kept a diary of all their ups and downs. She has now turned this into a website to provide support and inspiration to other parents.
She said: “There were lots of inspirational stories on the walls at Oliver Fisher and it really helped to read them. So I kept a diary and when Henry came home I created the website. I wanted to share our story to help other people and it was also therapeutic for me to write it all down.”
The couple, both 33, of Maidstone, have estimated the care given to their boys cost around £125,000. They have now vowed to raise what they can for the unit as their way of saying thank-you.
Nicki, who teaches at Northfleet School for Girls, said: “I know our fundraising efforts are a drop in the ocean compared with this figure but every little helps.
“We cannot begin to thank the staff enough. They were wonderful. If they saw you having a bit of a bad moment in the corridor they would stop and give you a little cuddle. They were amazing.”
Henry, now eight months old, is thriving and even trying to walk. He was there to cheer on his mum when she ran the Oliver Fisher 5k at Capstone Country Park in Chatham on Sunday. Nicki took part with her mum, mother-in-law and other family and friends.
She said: “I was feeling quite emotional leading up to it. Kevin and Henry were there at the end which was really nice. The first thing I did when I crossed the finish line was give Henry a kiss.”
You can still sponsor Nicki at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/CooperFundraising
Also taking part in the Oliver Fisher run was dad Dan Ayling whose son Robert was born at the unit 13 weeks early, weighing 2lb 10oz.
Wife Emma’s waters broke at 27 weeks pregnant and Robert was born three days later by emergency C-section.
To begin with Robert was doing well and needed only a little assistance to breathe. But at 10 days old he became seriously ill with bacterial meningitis and almost died.
Mum Emma said: “His heart stopped and he had to be revived but the incredible work of the team at the neonatal intensive care unit at Medway Maritime Hospital saved his life.”
Robert spent nine weeks on the ward before he could go home.
Emma, 36, added: “Dan and I feel very strongly that the unit needs to receive extra support in order to carry on doing its miraculous work for those born too soon or too sick.
“We can’t thank the team at the NICU enough. They really are incredible people. They are approachable and put you at ease and the care they provide is fantastic.”
Dan, 38, said: “The specialist care given to Robert in his early days certainly saved his life and for this we are truly and forever grateful and indebted to the trust and their wonderful staff.”
Dan ran the 10k race in 52 minutes 34 and has raised more than £1,000.
He plans to do it again next year and the couple from Sittingbourne plan to do more fundraising for the unit.
You can still donate by searching ‘Dan Ayling’ at www.justgiving.com