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Record-breaking premature baby girl home for Christmas

A girl believed to be the smallest surviving premature baby born on the island of Ireland has been described as her parents’ “little miracle” before their special first Christmas at home together.

Raina Gilmore weighed 378g, less than a pound, when she was delivered via Caesarean at 26 weeks on 28 June.

Her weight dipped to 360g in her first few days in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Royal Maternity hospital in Belfast.

Parents Rachel, 25, and Marcus, 33, who live in Ballyclare, Co Antrim, were told their baby had about a 10% chance of survival.

Raina needed 11 blood transfusions while in hospital

But despite multiple health scares and complications during four months in hospital, first at the Royal and then at Antrim Area Hospital, Raina battled through and her mother and father were finally able to take her home in October.

“Whenever that day actually came, I don’t even know how to explain it, it was like all our Christmases rolled into one,” said Mrs Gilmore, a self-employed beautician.

“It was lovely because all the nurses and doctors stood out and clapped for her leaving. My mum and dad were there too.

“It was just one of the best days of our lives to finally get her home.”

Marcus and Rachel Gilmore with their daughter Raina in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital

In her time in hospital, Raina needed 11 blood transfusions, was treated for sepsis and a suspected serious bowel condition twice, encountered problems with kidney function and had investigations for issues with her liver and retinas.

She had 450 combined blood tests and swabs. She also had two spinal lumbar punctures to check for meningitis.

Her father, a telecommunications executive, read a chapter of Harry Potter to her every night she spent in hospital.

They have got through five books so far.

Raina still faces challenges. She has to take steroids because her body does not produce enough cortisol and she is due to undergo hip surgery in April.

Mrs Gilmore said the way Raina has continually bounced back from adversity is amazing.

“It seemed like anything that came her way that seemed pretty bad, she came back bigger and stronger than ever,” she said.

At an event the family recently attended at the Royal to mark World Premature Day, they were told the previous smallest baby born at the hospital weighed 398g.

In the Republic of Ireland, a girl who weighed 390g at birth is believed to be the State’s smallest surviving premature baby.

“Raina was basically the weight of a tin of soup. A tin of Heinz soup is 400g and she was 378g. She was tiny,” said Mrs Gilmore.

At a recent check-up, Raina weighed in at 7lb 5ozs.

Despite being almost six months old, she is still too small for a lot of newborn clothes.

Christmas in the Gilmore house is set to be extra special.

“Raina will be spoiled rotten,” said Mrs Gilmore.

The family say they are so grateful to everyone who has played a part in helping Raina to date, particularly the doctors and nurses involved in her care.

They also described as “absolutely amazing” the support they have had from premature baby charity TinyLife.

The charity asked the Gilmores if they would consider sharing their story publicly.

“I know it’s nice to have positive stories because whenever TinyLife said to us about telling our story, I said, ‘Absolutely’, because we were desperate for some good news stories whenever we were in hospital with Raina,” said Mrs Gilmore.

“And if anybody can see our story and it gives them a bit of hope then that’s what we want.”

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