Neonatal care: Katy’s story

 

Katy Hall shaves head to raise money for UCLH Neonatal Care Unit: A story of survival and giving something back

Katy 1

Image shows Katy Hall at 24 weeks old.

In February of 1983, Katy Hall was born at 24 weeks weighing just 1.19 pounds (540g).

To put that into perspective, the average baby is born at 40 weeks and weighs around 7.5 pounds. If a baby is born between 29 and 33 weeks, this is considered as “moderately premature”. Katy was born extremely premature, so much so that her eyelids were still fused together.

“I survived”, says Katy, “partly due to a combination of luck and excellent care from UCLH nurses and doctors”. Katy doesn’t mean this lightly, as it is estimated that a baby born at just 24 weeks has a 10% -35% chance of survival.

“From my mother’s account, when she held me, she noticed that my skin was a bluish colour. She thought she was holding me for the first and last time”, says Katy. “But here I am, due to the care at the UCLH Neonatal Care Unit, my mother was elated to witness my skin change from blue to pink”, Katy continues.

As an extremely premature baby, Katy was treated in the specialist Neonatal Care Unit. Early days were critical, and Katy had a lot of things wrong with her – which required a number of blood transfusions and she contracted infections. To monitor Katy’s body temperature, she was also kept in an incubator, and she was connected to various monitors that track heart-beat, breathing rate and blood pressure. Katy also received fluids and medicines through a tube connected to a needle in her arm.

Katy suffered from intracranial bleeds, but doctors said that it was the immaturity of her lungs that were the main challenge. “At two weeks I began to struggle badly”, Katy says.

One day, at around two weeks old Katy took a turn for the worse. “Doctors disconnected all tubes and took me out of the incubator. They wrapped me in a cloth and gave me to my mother to hold one last time.”

Katy and her mother JaneKaty after head shave 

Left: Katy with her mother, Jane. Right: Katy after shaving her head. 

“Miraculously, I got over that, after being gravely ill for a week or so”, Katy says. “However, after such trauma, doctors warned my mother that they expected that I would suffer brain damage, which could lead to severe mental and/or physical disability.”

Katy’s mother, Jane explains how at this point, weeks turned into months, and when Katy reached the amazing weight of 1kg, the head nurse Anthea Blake threw a party for Katy. “Anthea was like a mother, granny, friend, everything to us poor parents...and the staff, who doted on Katy. It was due to their care that Katy came home, after four long months.”

Despite the odds saying that Katy would not survive, she did, and says she owes this to the excellent care at the UCLH Neonatal Care Unit.

“This is why I decided to do something to give something back to this fantastic unit”, Katy says. “I wanted to do something different – and I thought, what says dedication more than getting my head shaved; a woman’s hair is part of her identity, and the challenge resulted in me wearing a hat for weeks!”

“I would recommend others to get involved and fundraise for a cause that means something to them. Everything matters and can have lifelong impact in these critical care areas. Even small improvements in care are significant!”

Katy concludes: “Those who have been at the ‘front-line,’ like me, are uniquely placed to understand the value of care and treatments. I am just thankful that I could give something back.”

To donate to the Neonatal Unit or to find out how you can do something similar to Katy, visit our page at:

https://www.justgiving.com/uclhc