A premature newborn has become one of the UK’s youngest Covid-19 victims after testing positive for the virus and dying just a few days later.
Little Ivy-Rose Court was born at 26 weeks at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on 13 October, seven days after her mum Katie Leeming, 22, tested positive for Covid-19.
The mum-of-three, of Kirkham, said she decided against getting vaccinated after reading “horror stories” from other women posted on online pregnancy forums, although experts have repeatedly said the jabs are safe for mums-to-be and their babies.
When she came down with cold-like symptoms early in October, a lateral flow test for the virus came back positive, and a PCR test confirmed she had caught Covid-19.
She said: "When I found out I had Covid-19, at first I felt absolutely fine. I had normal flu-ish symptoms for the first couple of days, and then on day seven I began having palpitations in my chest and my heart rate soared. That day, I didn't feel the baby move at all, and that's why I decided to get in touch with the hospital.
"It was there they said that the baby's heart rate wasn't as it should have been, and they had to deliver her there and then.
"I have had two other premature children, so I knew what I was expecting, and what the risks were. But I was trying to be as positive as I could, knowing how my other children survived. It wasn't until five days later, when she caught Covid, that she started deteriorating.
"On 21 October, she started going down quickly. They told us to go in and be with her, because they weren't sure she was going to make it through the night."
‘I have been through all the stages of grief and back again’
Katie, a bakery assistant who lives with her partner Lee Court and sons Alfie, four, and Charlie, three, said she was “shocked” by Ivy-Rose's rapid decline, as her daughter had appeared “stable” just 24 hours before.
But doctors at the Royal Preston Hospital neonatal unit, where she was transferred, said the 2lb 3oz infant's heart rate and oxygen levels had severely declined.
She continued to deteriorate, and the heartbreaking decision was made to switch off her life support in the early hours of 22 October.
"By 11pm, they said too much damage had been done, and the kindest thing to do would be to let her go," Katie said. "But they gave us a few hours to hold her and be with her.
"Every hour is different. I have been through all the stages of grief and back again. I've gone from feeling completely numb, feeling as if nothing has happened and expecting to feel the baby's movements - because I should still be pregnant with her - to completely heartbroken about how it all happened. I'm devastated."
Katie added that she did not regret her decision not to have the Covid-19 jabs, as her partner Lee also tested positive for the virus despite being double vaccinated.
She said: "I had read about the Covid-19 vaccination on pregnancy groups. One lady said she had received the vaccination and that her baby was stillborn the week after. There obviously could have been other reasons for this, and the vaccine might not have caused it, but it scared me and put me off. Just hearing the horror stories about women having miscarriages made me not want to take the risk.
"I don't know if it would have made a difference or not. I had thoughts in my mind about it - what if I'd had it? Would she still be here today? What if it's my fault? But my midwife told me I can't afford to think like that. I could have still caught Covid-19 after the vaccination, or worse, if I did have it and something happened anyway, I would have blamed the vaccine."
A number of unvaccinated pregnant women had become seriously ill in Blackpool, with the Vic’s medical director Dr Jim Gardner and his deputy Dr Grahame Goode moving to reassure anxious parents-to-be.
Dr Goode said it’s ‘perfectly safe’ for expecting women to have the jab, adding: “This is particularly important because [they] often have a worse form of Covid.”
‘You never think it will happen to you’
Katie and Lee are now hoping to prepare a spectacular send-off for their daughter, with flowers and a horse-drawn carriage.
Katie's friend Simone Threlfall, 25, set up a fund-raiser to help with funeral costs.She said: "Katie and I met at Blackpool Victoria Hospital's neo-natal ward nearly five years ago, when we both had premature babies, and we've been friends ever since. Having a premature child before prepares you for the worst. You know what to expect. But you never think it will happen to you.
"It all happened so fast. There was nothing to indicate Katie was going to have another premature child until the Covid hit her, though it was always a risk.
"My own little girl was born at 26 weeks, and it could just as easily have happened to her.
"There was nothing I could do to take the pain away, but I wanted to help in some sort of way. You don't expect to have to pay for your child's funeral. There's nothing that anyone can do to prepare for such a terrible thing.
"There's nothing we can do to make it right. All we can do is help. Katie would never ask for help, but when I told her about the fundraiser she was relieved; it was like a weight had been lifted. It's something so small, but it can mean a lot."
A spokesman for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust added: “We are deeply saddened about the death of Ivy-Rose and all our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly sad time.’’
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