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Isla’s NICU journey

When Kelly went into preterm labour with her daughter almost 16 weeks before her due date, she had no way of knowing what lay ahead for her little family.  

Kelly had been attending all her regular prenatal checks, and all was progressing by the book, there was no indication that she might go into spontaneous early labour, especially as she’d already given birth to her older son, Elliot at full term only 16 months prior. 

Despite the team at Monash doing all they could to stop Kelly’s labour, baby Isla was born via emergency c-section at just 24 weeks and 5 days gestation.  

Given the speed at which this all occurred, Kelly said she was in shock, and didn’t really register what was happening, “I certainly didn’t comprehend there was a chance we’d lose Isla,” she said. 

Isla was a fighter from the moment she was born, having arrived into the world with an APGAR score of just 1, she needed immediate assistance with her breathing and had to undergo a myriad of tests.  

Baby Isla went on to spend almost 5 months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) under the watchful eye of a team of doctors and nurses who Kelly says she formed very close bonds with. 

Throughout Isla’s NICU stay, Kelly and her husband Damon were busy juggling the care of their son Elliott, multiple trips to and from Monash Children’s Hospital each day to ensure Isla had a constant supply of breastmilk and trying to get Kelly’s new business off the ground.  

“I pumped constantly for almost 5 months so that Isla had a ready supply of breastmilk,” explained Kelly. 

“The nurses encouraged both Damon and I to read to Isla as much as possible, and we spent hours upon hours giving her ‘kangaroo cuddles’ to help her bond with us and understand how much we loved her.” 

Kelly says that it was the doctors and nurses at Monash who really helped them manage the rollercoaster that was Isla’s time in the Monash NICU.   

Isla’s dad, Damon says that the unconditional love and care that the nurses gave Isla was vital in reassuring them when they had to leave her behind each night.  

“The doctors were in constant communications with us, involving us in every decision and allowed us to feel like we had a little bit of control in an emotionally difficult and uncertain time,” said Damon.  

Kelly expressed her heartfelt thanks to the Monash NICU nurses, recalling a day that Isla was struggling particularly badly.  

“One of the nurses looked me straight in the eye and said to me that she knew Isla would be ok. Those few words meant so much to me, and gave me the strength to keep willing our daughter to fight,” she said.  

Isla fought hard, and after 139 days, or the equivalent of 3 weeks past her initial due date, she was able to come home. 

Isla is now almost 24 months old, and is currently learning to walk. She is clever, curious and very communicative. Her immune system is working as it should, and she has no sight or hearing issues, which is often an issue for babies born so prematurely. 

“Isla continues to surprise us every day, she is absolutely perfect,” says Kelly. 

Kelly, Damon, Elliott and Isla are determined to raise awareness about the immense care that goes into ensuring that premature babies not only survive, but go on to live full, healthy lives. 

“We can’t thank the team at Monash Children’s enough – the best thing we can do is use our experience to ensure future pre-term babies receive the level of care and compassion that we did when Isla arrived,” said Kelly.  

To learn how you can ensure pre-term babies at Monash Children’s Hospital receive the vital care they need to thrive, visit the Foundation website.