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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Baby given less than a 1% chance of survival returns home with her mother

30 March 2016

Baby Meabh was born at just 23 weeks weighing barely a pound

One of Northern Ireland’s most premature babies is finally able to return home from hospital with her mother.

Fionnuala McArdle was just 23 weeks pregnant when her daughter was born on 9th October last year. Her baby weighed just over a pound (480g) and doctors at the Royal Maternity Hospital's neonatal unit gave her between a zero and one per cent chance of surviving. Fionnula’s daughter was also born with pneumonia and surrounded by toxic fluids.

Fionnuala named her daughter Meabh, which is an Irish name meaning the cause of great joy. Appropriately enough, Meabh’s name is thought to originate from the great warrior queen Mabh of Connacht.

True fighter

Little Meabh has certainly proven herself to be a true fighter over the past five months, as she’s gone through four operations, including a major heart operation and two on her eyes.

But with the help of medics, she’s pulled through – and has now been discharged from hospital to return home with her mother.

Her mum Fionnuala recalls Meabh trying to grasp her hand in the hours after she was born, and says she knew then that her baby would survive.

"I just loved her"

Fionnuala told UTV: “When I looked at her and she was so fragile, she really was badly bruised and she just looked so sick, but I just loved her.

“It was scary because she was so small. She was the size of my hand. It was just [like] ‘how are you here’?”

Meabh’s story is all the more incredible when you consider that abortion is legal in Britain up to 24 weeks of pregnancy – meaning that babies like Meabh are being aborted in mainland Britain.

"The most amazing moment of my life"

It’s been a long road to health, but Fionnuala says she will never forget the moment when she was able to hold her beautiful child at last, for just a few moments, five weeks after she was born.

“It was literally about a minute, if even, because she couldn’t handle it,” Fionnuala continued.

“She was still on a ventilator at the time so she was put straight back in. But it was the most amazing minute of my life.”

"Over the moon" 

Meabh still faces an uphill struggle - she still requires oxygen, is being tube fed and may have health problems in later life. But for now Fionnuala is just rejoicing that just last week she finally was allowed to bring her baby home.

“Absolutely over the moon, I finally felt like a proper mother because I was able to take the baby home,” she said.

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