Doctors said baby Amaya-Rae, who was born at 23 weeks and weighed just 680g [l.5 pounds], would not survive, but after a long battle in hospital and a visit from the Princess of Wales, she is now at home with her parents.
Amaya-Rae was born a week before the abortion limit in the UK to Mischa and Jamie Hand from Crawley, West Sussex. Doctors told the couple eight times that their daughter would not survive but baby Amaya-Rae refused to give up.
The couple were delighted to find out Mischa was pregnant with a baby girl after over a year of trying. Everything in her pregnancy was progressing well until Mischa suddenly started to experience cramps when she was out shopping with her friends. Her husband was really concerned when he found out later in the day and they rushed to hospital where doctors did everything they could to delay labour.
Mischa said “The doctor said: ‘I’m so sorry, this baby is coming.’ They asked would we like to hear the heartbeat one last time, but we couldn’t. I shut down and tried to mentally prepare for the fact I would never have my baby”.
“The medical team said they would try their best to save her, which legally they weren’t obliged to do, as she was born before the 24 week limit where she would be classed as incompatible with life.”
Amaya-Rae was born on 28 August 2021 at East Surrey Hospital, weighing only 680g.
“She was born into a bag and whisked away to NICU. They told me she was breathing, but we didn’t think we would ever get to hold her alive”.
“Then, there was just Jamie and I left in the room. The silence was deafening, you could hear a pin drop. We didn’t even know what to say to each other, so we just sat there in silence”.
“A nurse came in and showed us a photo of Amaya. She said: ‘She’s quite the character, she’s nibbling the nurses’ fingers.’ Then we realised we had a fighter on our hands”.
“I was allowed to go and see her and I put my hand into the incubator, and she just grabbed onto my finger. It was so overwhelming – in that moment I just fell in love with her”.
Amaya-Rae had to be transferred to King’s College Hospital to receive specialist care. Doctors were so concerned about her condition that they thought she would not even survive the ambulance journey. But at 14 days old they had to make the journey anyway and Amaya suffered a brain bleed and lung hemorrhage in the ambulance. She was stabilised once they got her to the hospital.
She bounced back every time
Over the next 11 months Amaya-Rae had a series of issues such as a perforated bowel and sepsis, but she bounced back every time.
Her mum said “Another time we were told we had come to the end of the road when doctors discovered that [she had] pulmonary veins stenosis […] Two veins out of the four were not actually connected”.
“The other two had scar tissue due to the impact of having the extra blood flow. We were given the option to take Amaya to palliative care, or take her home and wait for her to die”.
“I said: ‘She’s not giving up now,’ and amazingly, the next morning, we had a call from the doctor who asked specialists to look at her scans”.
“They realised that her body had managed to produce new veins connecting from the top unconnected veins to feed directly into the bottom”.
“They were able to balloon her veins to ensure good blood flow and eventually once they had managed to find a stent small enough for her she was able to have stents placed”.
A royal visit
She was transferred again to the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, where she spent 166 days before finally being allowed home.
It was there that baby Amaya-Rae met the Princess of Wales. Recalling the Royal visit, Mischa said “When we were in the Evelina Children’s Hospital, we were totally stunned when Catherine, Princess of Wales made an unexpected visit”.
“Catherine was so lovely, she listened intently to Amaya’s story and genuinely seemed so taken with her and asked such a lot of questions. She seemed totally besotted, complimenting her smiles and her outfit”.
“Amaya couldn’t take her eyes off her, she was transfixed. Someone suggested we take her to see a Disney Princess show at Christmas, but we joked she only deals with actual royalty now”.
Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “Babies who are born. The heartwarming story of baby Amaya-Rae is yet another example of extremely premature babies who go on to defy all expectations.”