A Kiama mum is undertaking a marathon throughout the month to raise money to help give premature babies a fighting chance after her own experience with her two sons.
Emily Rossiter is taking part in Running for Premature Babies’ Premmie Marathon Challenge, where participants run, swim, cycle or walk their chosen amount between 21 to 300 kilometres in November.
She has challenged herself to run 42 kilometres throughout the month, all while balancing her busy lifestyle and family demands, in the hope that more parents can watch their kids live full and happy lives.
Emily was 27 weeks pregnant when she was rushed to hospital and told that she needed to give birth immediately to save the lives of her baby and herself.
“It was a big shock,” she said. “It all happened really quickly, I had really severe preeclampsia so it wasn’t safe anymore for either of us.”
Her first son Lachie was born weighing just 850 grams and needed a lot of support just to survive.
“They’re so fragile and tiny,” Emily said. “He was pretty sick to begin with, on the second or third day after he was born his lungs collapsed and he had a pneumothorax so he needed to be on a ventilator and life support for a long time.”
They spent 4.5 months at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney, where Lachie relied on specialised machines and care until he was healthy enough to finally go home.
“I think we were just going day to day when we were in the hospital but it’s pretty amazing, the nurses, the doctors, all of the equipment it’s amazing what they can do,” Emily said.
Two years later, Emily found herself back at the NICU with her second son Ollie, who was born at 29 weeks weighing 890 grams.
“They kind of expected that it might happen again so I was monitored really closely but it was still a massive thing, we had to be up in Sydney for another 4.5 months and this time we had Lachie too.”
Now, at four and two years old, Lachie and Ollie are your average outgoing and energetic little boys, ready to take on the world.
“They’re so wild and so happy and healthy now that you wouldn’t think they had a rough start,” Emily said.
Their start is not so uncommon: around one in 10 babies in Australia are born prematurely before 37 weeks, and it is still unknown why many cases occur.
Fortunately, outcomes have drastically improved over time, and babies born between 26 and 28 weeks now have a more than 94 per cent chance of survival compared with just 10 per cent in 1970.
But it doesn’t come cheap, with the cost of caring for a premature baby in intensive care costing anywhere from $3500 to $10,000 each day.
“They need such specialised stuff, and I had no idea until we were there,” Emily said. “They can’t regulate their temperature and they can’t breathe by themselves so the humidicribs are very specialised and honestly they need them.”
Access to that care is made possible through charities like Running for Premature Babies, which has donated more than $5 million to fund more than 100 pieces of equipment and research.
“I didn’t know about the charity until a little bit after I had Lachie because I was sitting in the NICU and I was looking around and I could see all the plaques on all the equipment that this particular group had donated,” Emily said.
“We just want to give back to help others because we’re just lucky that we had that stuff available to us and the boys,” she said. “So if some other small babies can get through because of it, then it’s all worth it.”