A BABY boy who was born during a blizzard weighing just 1lb 10oz – lighter than his favourite teddy bear – has defied all odds after being given just a 20 per cent chance of survival.
Rhys Gardner needed 20 blood transfusions and three major operations after he was born three-and-a-half months early during heavy snow.
When he was born, Rhys, from Doncaster, had a series of serious health problems.
His lung collapsed and an infection attacked his bowel, leaving him in need of lifesaving surgery.
During the first five months of his life he was driven 82 miles between Doncaster, Leeds and Sheffield by the specialist Embrace Transport team, which ensured he was taken straight to the care he needed.
Matthew Gardner, Rhys’s father, was at his wife Vicky’s side when Rhys was born at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. He now plans to run the 82 miles to raise money for charity.
Mr Gardner said: “Rhys’s introduction to this world was hectic and hazardous.
“He needed the highest level of care available, which meant he had to be transferred to Leeds’s special care baby unit.
“We were told they might not make it through the snow, and I was shell-shocked. It was a panic.
“Thankfully their careful driving got Rhys to hospital safely, and Vicky and I were able to join him in Leeds the following day.”
Rhys is one of 2,000 babies taken each year by ambulance to hospitals across Yorkshire and the Humber by the Embrace Infant and Child Transport Service, which is run by Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Steve Hancock, consultant transport specialist, said: “We were delighted to be able to help Rhys get the right treatment at the right time.
“His family were clearly in a desperate situation and the weather was at its worst.
“But Rhys needed the right care so we evaluated the risks and drove very carefully to get him to where he needed to be.
“To see him doing so well is fantastic.”
After 10 days on the specialist unit in Leeds, Rhys was well enough to return to Doncaster.
However, his lung then collapsed and he also suffered from necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a common condition in premature babies when portions of the bowel start to die.
He was transferred to Sheffield where doctors at The Children’s Hospital operated to save his life, removing a third of his bowel in a successful five-hour operation.
Mr Gardner, an RAF electrical engineer technician, said: “The consultants said he had just a 20 to 50 per cent chance of survival.
“We were distraught. When this thing happens to your own child you don’t know what to think.
“He’s our first child, and I was all set to be the protective father when we suddenly had him torn away from us.
“You have to put all your trust in the medical staff, and we’ve been amazed at how well they dealt with our emergency.”
Rhys, now a toddler of 16 months, weighs ten times his birth weight and is the same size as other children his age.
“We’re over the moon now,” his father added.
“The first few weeks were so hectic and emotional.
“Since day one, when he was born during those terrible snowstorms, we’ve been up and down, and it’s been difficult seeing our baby so vulnerable and helpless.
“We’re amazed to see he’s on the mend and getting stronger by the day.”
Govind Murthi, a surgeon for Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Rhys had a serious operation but we have a specialist team here in Sheffield which gave him the best chance.
“We always need to warn parents about the risk of surgery and Rhys was very poorly, but he’s doing incredibly well now and we’re very pleased to set him on the road to recovery.”