When Andrea and Barry Pherson’s daughter Mia was just three months old, they were told to prepare for the worst.
Their tiny daughter, who had been born at under 26 weeks, was fighting to breathe and had to be resuscitated using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
In fact, in the space of five months, Mia stopped breathing six times and needed seven blood transfusions.
Today, the four-year-old is a bundle of energy and excitedly looking forward to her first day in primary one at Millington Primary School yesterday (Thursday).
Despite the grim predictions that she might never walk or talk and could be deaf or blind, Mia is “full of devilment’, attends ballet class and has this week started musical theatre.
Her mum Andrea said, “She is a wee miracle. Starting P1 is a milestone I never thought we would reach and I do feel very emotional when I think about it.”
Andrea’s first pregnancy was textbook perfect - her daughter Emma, now seven, was born just one day early weighing 9lb 6oz and the birth was completely straightforward.
But shortly afterwards, Andrea had an abnormal smear and was found to be one stage away from cervical cancer. Part of her womb was removed and she and her husband were told to wait two years before trying for another baby.
However, this did not prepare them for the trauma of the birth of their second daughter Mia.
At 24 weeks into her pregnancy, Andrea’s waters broke and she was rushed to Craigavon Hospital.
She spent 10 days on bed rest, being scanned daily, in the hope that labour could be delayed until at least 27 weeks.
However, despite the nursing staff’s best efforts, Andrea went into labour and Mia was born in the Royal Victoria Hospital at 25 weeks and five days, during which she suffered a bleed on the brain.
Said Andrea, “She weighed just 1lb 7oz and her dad’s wedding ring could fit over her wrist. I wasn’t allowed to see her for 24 hours as I needed medical treatment myself.”
Three weeks after her dramatic entrance to the world, Mia was transferred to the neonatal unit at Craigavon where she remained for over four months. On her return home, visitors were restricted and hygiene was paramount to reduce the risk of her catching potentially fatal bronchiolitis.
Today, Mia’s only lasting effect is chronic lung disease. Her mum explained, “She uses an inhaler and can’t run about too much. She knows she was a very sick baby and wants to be a doctor when she grows up, to make people better.”