It was November 2007, life for Mario and I was perfect, we were married for a few years, we had a beautiful little girl, 2 year old Sophia and we were so happy to find out I was expecting our 2nd child. We went for our 20 week ultrasound, we were told everything was normal and that we were having a little sister for Sophia, something I always dreamt about.
But unfortunately at 24 weeks my dream turned into a living nightmare.
I was so sick, not able to move, I knew there was a problem, my baby wasn’t moving. After another scan we received the worst possible news, that our unborn baby had a 10% chance of survival and I was experiencing severe discomfort due to the increased fluid in my body. We were rushed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA), where I stayed for one month of complete bed rest, to prolong Dimi’s birth and give her that extra chance to survive. Upon arrival at RPA, both my unborn baby and I required special surgeries to drain large volumes of fluid from our bodies. I also had a rare in utero procedure that involved placing a shunt (drain) into the cyst growing inside Dimi’s chest. The shunt would be removed during surgery after her birth.
At 30 weeks, I gave birth at Westmead Hospital. It was Mother’s Day 2008, a Mother’s Day I will never forget. It was not your normal, natural delivery, there was a room filled with doctors and nurses explaining to us the possibilities our baby may not survive and that she will be taken from us immediately for urgent assistance. After the traumatising natural birth, not knowing whether she was alive or not, Dimi was taken from us, she wasn't breathing, placed on a ventilator and later transferred to the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care at The Children's Hospital at Westmead in preparation for surgery.We prepared for the worst... we cried enough tears to fill a dam!
Four days later, Dimi’s surgeon, the wonderful Dr Soundappan, confirmed the growth in Dimi’s chest was a benign tumor and that all 500g of it had been successfully removed from her tiny body. Dimi then only weighed approx. 1.5kg and Mario’s wedding band fit around her ankle.
After discharge from the Grace NICU, Dimi spent the next four months in Westmead Hospital's Newborn Intensive care unit attached to a ventilator to help her breathe and a feeding tube to help her grow strong enough to go home which she did, our precious Dimi came home with us on Father’s Day.
It was such a terrifying and exhausting time for myself and my husband, the feeling of the unknown, not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As a mum I didn't experience the normal things you do when your baby arrives, such as holding your baby for the first time. This wasn't possible for me, unfortunately I did not have the pleasure of holding my baby for several weeks, and when I did she was attached to machines or I touched her through holes in her incubator. I felt robbed, I didn’t want photos, gifts or anything that would remind me of her as I was so worried I would lose her.
This was my way of dealing with things at the time.
No beautiful flowers or congratulations, no going home with our baby, just spending the days with her and then having to leave her every night, this was absolute torture, even though we knew she was in the best possible hands.
But I thank God everyday for blessing me with the most supportive husband who not once left my side and my 2 precious daughters Sophia & Dimitra who everyday remind me about the true meaning of life! I am convinced that my precious miracle was brought on this earth for a reason, to teach us all how to be fighters and to never give up.
Dimi is now a healthy and bright 12 year old. Her scar, which at the time seemed enormous, is today a silent reminder of her special inner strength and a mark of her courage.
I promised my little girl when she was born that I would dedicate my time to giving back to the amazing group of lifesavers at the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care and the NICU at Westmead Hospital for treating Dimi, as if she were their own and caring for us like family. Mother's Day for me is always a day of mixed emotions, a memory that will remain with me forever. My heart always goes out to all the special mums who will be spending their special Mother’s Day day in the NICU with their precious miracles.
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