Ipswich baby Lydia is finally home after overcoming septicaemia, hole in the heart, meningitis and brain bleeds

Safe in her mummy's arm - little battler Lydia with mum Maxine Steward.

Safe in her mummy's arm - little battler Lydia with mum Maxine Steward. - Credit: Archant

Miracle baby Lydia is continuing to defy the odds after she was born 15 weeks early, with doctors giving her a 1% chance of survival.

Lydia Sophie Eileen, who was born at 24 weeks and six days.

Lydia Sophie Eileen, who was born at 24 weeks and six days. - Credit: Archant

But after seven months in hospital, 105 blood transfusions, laser eye surgery, a risky operation on her stomach, three brain bleeds and treatment for meningitis, the strong tot is today at home with her family.

Mum Maxine Steward, of Waterfront Road, Ipswich, said: “She’s the biggest miracle going, she’s my little angel.

“I just stare at her all the time and tell her how amazing she is, even though she can’t understand me.”

Miss Steward’s waters broke in February at 24 weeks and six days pregnant as she sat down on the toilet at friend Katrina Durrant’s house.

Maxine Steward with her children L-R Harry and Jacob and Lydia.

Maxine Steward with her children L-R Harry and Jacob and Lydia. - Credit: Archant

After being rushed to Ipswich Hospital, Miss Steward said she was taken into a room and given leaflets on infant death and planning a funeral for her daughter.

“I was panicking thinking my baby was going to die,” Miss Steward said. “They said there was nothing they could do and I was going to be transferred to another hospital.”

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Miss Steward, 24, was driven by ambulance to St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where staff are specially trained to deal with extremely premature babies.

“When we got there my heart rate kept dropping,” Miss Steward said. “I remember them saying, ‘we have to get her out now or you will both die’.

“I had septicaemia and they gave her a 1% chance of survival. I was convinced that I would be grieving.”

Lydia Sophie Eileen was born by emergency caesarean at 5am and weighed just 1lb 4oz.

But at this stage Miss Steward was under the impression that her baby was a stillborn after doctors gave her a photograph of Lydia.

“I thought she had died,” she said. “I rang my mum and I was still under anaesthetic, I wasn’t thinking at all. Eight hours later my mum came to London and they let me see her for the first time and I thought I was going to the morgue.”

When Miss Steward, who also has two sons, Jacob, six, and four-year-old Harry, was taken to the neonatal unit to find her baby girl alive she said she couldn’t believe her eyes.

“I was just over the moon,” she said. “It was overwhelming, I couldn’t believe my eyes. She didn’t look like a baby, she looked like a baby bird, she was tiny. She used to fit in my hand.”

Lydia, who was born with a hole in her heart, was put on life support and Miss Steward was told that the next two months were crucial.

Miss Steward was in hospital herself for one month being treated for septicaemia and she was then moved to Ronald McDonald House Guy’s and St Thomas’, a charity accommodation that allows families to stay close to their sick children for free.

“It was amazing, they cooked and cleaned for us, they had a Playstation for the kids,” Miss Steward said. “It was great.”

It was then a long six months for Miss Steward, who was by her baby’s side at St Thomas’ Hospital from 9am to 10pm every day.

“I couldn’t wait to get her home,” Miss Steward said. “I kept pushing for her to come off the oxygen, not knowing that she couldn’t. Every time they said no it crushed me a little bit.

“I was the longest one running there. I got used to it and in the end I didn’t want to leave, but I was overwhelmed that she made it through.

“I never thought I would see the day, I thought she would stay there forever, she has spent most of her life there.”

Lydia spent one month at Ipswich Hospital before she was finally discharged in August – but Miss Steward admitted she was “petrified” to take her tiny tot home.

“I went to my mum’s at first,” she said. “I wouldn’t even sleep, my mum had to stay up with me.”

Lydia, who is now eight months old and weighs 9lb 5oz, has been on breathing support 24 hours a day since she left hospital, but Miss Steward said she had reached the point where she could come off oxygen during the day.

The hole in Lydia’s heart is closing over time and if her progress continues Miss Steward said she would grow up to be a perfectly healthy girl.

“She’s doing brilliant,” she added. “They thought she would never see, hear or cry but she’s making noises and her hearing and eyesight is fine.

“I think she will be small because me and her dad are small but she should be a normal, healthy little girl. She is defying all odds at the moment. I’m hoping she will grow up to be a neonatal nurse. She’s a superhero.”