Family of 16-week premature baby test new neonatal ICU kit

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Baby JudeImage source, Leanne Hughes
Image caption,
Baby Jude has been testing specialist equipment for a new neonatal intensive care centre

Baby Jude weighed just 1lb 12oz when he was born 16 weeks prematurely.

After 14 weeks in hospital, his weight has increased to 6lb 1oz and his parents - Leanne Hughes and Dale Davies - are hoping to take him home to Connah's Quay, in Flintshire, on Monday.

While in hospital they became one of a number of families to test specialist equipment for a new neonatal intensive care centre in Denbighshire.

This is 34-year-old Leanne's story.

I found out I was pregnant just before Christmas and the pregnancy was going well. I didn't have any horrendous morning sickness, it was quite an enjoyable pregnancy.

Just before my 20-week scan I had a little bit of a bleed, but it settled down. Then, after my scan, that's when I had a bigger bleed and I went straight to Glan Clwyd [hospital]. They assessed me and suspected I may go into early labour.

Given I was only 24 weeks into my pregnancy, they didn't have the facilities at the unit to take babies that premature so they looked for the nearest available unit and that happened to be Preston, about an hour and a half to two hours' drive away.

Image source, Leanne Hughes
Image caption,
Leanne Hughes set up a private Instagram account for friends and family to track Jude's progress

I got transferred up there straight away and spent about four days in Preston hospital. Then I had a big bleed and it just happened, my waters broke.

We were taken to the neonatal unit in Preston and we were there for six weeks before we got transferred back to Glan Clwyd.

We only found out we were having a boy at the 20-week scan. It was a bit of a shock to the system, we knew we were pregnant but we thought we had plenty of weeks to prepare and get ourselves ready for everything. We didn't.

The only thing we did have was the pram, that was on order. Because it was so early on, we hadn't started to go crazy preparing everything because we didn't want to jinx anything.

The doctors in Preston had warned us it would be a bit of a rollercoaster and there would be good days and bad days. We had our ups and downs but he's pulled through and he's been really good.

After we had been at Glan Clwyd a couple of weeks and they were happy they knew Jude and what was happening, we started to get involved trialling the equipment.

Image caption,
Leanne Hughes and baby Jude have been in hospital for 14 weeks

The first thing we were trialling was the new incubators. They were really good and it gave us more confidence when we were looking after him, doing his nappy and stuff like that, getting him in and out. When they're in an incubator you feel not very attached to them.

We're staying in the hospital at the moment because I'm breastfeeding. We're trialling some chairs that help with breastfeeding because you need to be comfortable, that's where it comes in handy.

Until you've been through it, it's difficult to really understand it. It's good to have other parents there who understand how you're feeling, to reassure each other when somebody is having a bad day.

But everybody has their own journey, no baby is the same.

We're hoping we'll be coming home on Monday. He was due on 19 August.

Image source, Leanne Hughes

We've been in hospital 14 weeks altogether, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel and we're gearing up, getting everything sorted.

Dale has been busy going back and forth to work and then also getting everything sorted at home. We're really lucky we've got good friends and family who have all pulled together and they're coming over to the house, giving it a big clean.

We just hope to be able to start our life together. We've had to put it on hold the last 14 weeks, so it'll be good to get him home and settled in.

He will be coming home on oxygen for a bit until he's more settled and we can wean him off it.

Image source, Leanne Hughes
Image caption,
Jude will still need to be on oxygen when he gets home

We've tried to capture everything for a private Instagram account we've shared with friends and family to track his progress.

It's been really good for us to be able to share things and interact with them. It's kept us going and given us a more positive spin on everything.

The staff have been amazing and have really looked after us and made us feel welcome.

Being involved in the trial has given us something else to do while we're there and hopefully helped us make the experience for other parents a bit more comfortable.