River Willis born at 24 weeks, just four days after abortion cut-off limit

By Dave Andrusko

River Willis, from Tredegar, was born at 24 weeks and three days old weighing 1lb 9oz
Image: Cara Willis

Last July, just 24 weeks and three days into her pregnancy, Cara Willis of Tredegar, Wales, suffered a major complication– placental abruption where her placenta had come away from the inside of the wall of her womb.

Mrs. Willis’ situation was so dire doctors warned it was possible that neither she nor her baby may survive.

Mark Smith, a health correspondent for Wales Online, tells us

Medics said they had no choice but to carry out an emergency c-section and bring the child into the world incredibly prematurely – weighing a tiny 1lb 9oz.

If he had been delivered just four days earlier, the baby would have been born before the abortion cut-off and may not have received any medical attention.

Not only was River Willis tiny, he was so premature his skin was translucent.

Smith’s account of the ordeal where River’s life hung in the balance is riveting.

Their baby rushed to the intensive care unit, Cara and husband Luke could not see River for two days.

“They lifted up the blankets around him and he was so small you could hardly see him. We both cried,” Cara told Smith. “He was about half the size of the little teddy bears around him. You could literally fit him into the palm of your hand, but we couldn’t hold him for two weeks.”

Even though his weight dropped to a mere one pound, River’s initial progress was promising. “But all that changed when the poorly tot contracted sepsis, a condition triggered by an infection or injury that causes the body to attack tissues and organs,” Smith reported. The baby battled through that, even though at one point, “I didn’t recognise him as his face was so swollen,” Mrs. Willis said. “I actually thought I was looking at a different baby in the incubator.”

Then, doctors discovered River had a problem common to very premature babies—he had a hole in his heart—and would need an operation when he was older. But, Smith writes,

Following three-and-a-half months at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, River was well enough to be transferred to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, far closer to the family home

“We got really close to the staff in UHW, so it was really sad to leave them,” Mrs. Willis, the mother of four other children, told Smith. They not only saved River’s life, but they saved mine too. I’m so immensely grateful for what they have done for us.”

Smith ends the story of the Willis family’s medical miracle with the encouraging words that River is coming on “leaps and bounds” at age seven months.

“He adores his older brothers and sister, and it’s so amazing to think how much he’s progressed,” Cara said.

“We’re hoping he’ll have open heart surgery in Bristol around October time, but until then he’ll still need oxygen.”