We are excited to introduce the ‘smile’ behind our Wear Green for Premmies campaign for 2015, Rachel Crowther. Rachel is our first ever female premmie to represent Wear Green for Premmies as we prepare to celebrate our 5th anniversary in raising awareness for premature babies nation-wide.
Rachel was born at 24+2 weeks gestation weighing 669 grams at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital when her mother, Rhonda suffered from a placental abruption as a result of placental previa. Rachel proved to be a little fighter right from the beginning with APGARS of 8 and 9 at birth. She was ventilated after birth and amazingly was trialled on CPAP on day 3, however when she began battling her first infection on day 7 she was re-ventilated. As with many prems, Rachel’s PDA was open at birth but with the help of medication it soon closed. After fighting her second infection, it is was found that her PDA had re-opened. By week 7 it was also discovered that she was suffering from a heart murmur, further testing also revealed pulmonary stenosis.
As an extreme prem, Rachel was blessed with having no brain bleeds or bowel issues. However due to prolonged use of the ventilator and CPAP, she was diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease. After 121 days in hospital at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital NICU and SCN and Ipswich Base Hospital SCN, Rachel went home on oxygen, which she remained on for a further 2 years.
Mum Rhonda, reflects on her first time seeing Rachel, “It was a few hours after she was born and I was wheeled in and introduced to this plastic box with a tiny creature inside covered in wires and tubes. My first thoughts were, “What have I done.” But then I saw past all the hospital equipment and there was my tiny baby girl, curled up and holding her vent (ventilator) and somehow that image told me she wanted to fight and that she was going to be ok. My thoughts and feelings quickly changed from being shell shocked to “I’m going to do everything in my power to help her”. I never took any negative or doubting thoughts into the NICU and that became a rule for my husband Col and I. We were determined to only show Rachel love and positivity, that we were with her and supporting her.”
The main thing that helped Rhonda cope in those early days in hospital was the support from other mums who were living with her at Ronald McDonald House. Those who had walked in her footsteps, parted words of wisdom on her that she was later able to pass onto new mums who came to the house during her stay.
Rhonda suffered a panic attack not long after Rachel came home from hospital which led her to discover L’il Aussie Prems (as it was known then) and she described the forum as her godsend, as she found other mums just like her. The support she gained from other premmie mums on the forum helped her to feel like a “normal” mum and to cope with the challenges of having a premmie baby.
Rachel has had a number of hospital re-admissions in her short life to investigate her oxygen requirements at home in the first couple of years, as well as two heart surgeries at 19 months old to correct her still open PDA after the first surgery failed. After a number of respiratory infections which were able to be managed with home based care, Rachel at 22 months was hospitalised to monitor her oxygen levels as a result of infection. At this stage she had been weaned off home based oxygen but the oxygen bottles were kept at home for 2 years. These days, Rachel’s illnesses as a result of her Chronic Lung Disease are occurring less and less often.
Today, Rachel still has a heart murmur and pulmonary stenosis however, Rhonda says these conditions seem to be self-correcting and is hoping that their next cardiac appointment will be their last. She suffers from hyper mobility (double jointed) and global low muscle tone which put her at a higher risk of joint dislocation and hyperextension. She also has a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Rhonda describes Rachel as a determined girl who does not let her ongoing issues slow her down. She attends mainstream primary school, where in her prep year she was awarded the top academic achievement award for her class. In grade one she narrowly missed out on the same award after receiving excellent academic results. This year Rachel is in grade two. She is also an enthusiastic karate student and in 2013/2014 she had received 2 sliver and 3 gold karate medals.
When asked what she would like to be when she grows up Rachel says, “A cook, a cleaner, a driver, a karate teacher, crochet person, a crafter and a happy person”.
Rachel will be featured on our 2015 Wear Green for Premmies poster this year along with our amazing sponsors, Huggies, Angelcare and Water Wipes.
Participants do not have to attend a physical event, however, are invited to join our Facebook page, encourage family, friends and work colleagues to simply wear green, share their story, purchase a wristband and create a fundraising page to help raise vital funds. The funds raised will enable our committee to continue our important work, to expand on our family focused programs and donate vital equipment to the four chosen hospitals.
Wear Green for Premmies will be celebrated on Wednesday, 15th April 2015.
A special thank you to Mandii Jones from Xanthe Photography for her kindness in donating her services to photograph Rachel for our 2015 event.