Co Armagh family hail miracle medics who saved ‘our Bonnie’

This video contains distressing images

A family from Co Armagh have described the medical staff who saved their daughter’s life when she was born weighing just 1.5lbs as “miracle workers”.

Bonnie McGuinness was born prematurely in May 2020, having stopped growing in the womb at 24 weeks.

Medics rushed to deliver the tot to ensure she had the best chance of survival, but her family were told to expect the worst.

“She was so fragile we couldn’t hold her hand,” mum Claire told UTV, adding that staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital had been “absolutely incredible” in saving her life.

Bonnie was born at 28 weeks and battled sepsis, blood clots and other medical problems. Credit: Family photo

“She was the size of your hand, she was just so tiny and fragile,” Claire said.

“They put her into a plastic bag to keep her warm and it was literally the size of a sandwich bag. It can be quite shocking to see a baby that size.”

Dad Jonny went to meet his daughter in the neonatal ward and he recalls the uncertainty because Bonnie was just so fragile.

“I had no idea what I was walking into,” he said.

“We didn’t know how small she was going to be. Marty, one of the doctors, was holding her head in his hand and I can’t describe the feeling of seeing that.”

Setbacks followed and, over the next three months, Bonnie battled lung haemorrhages, sepsis and other medical problems.

Her family say she fought her corner from the start though.

“This can be a standard pathway for these neonatal babies, they get more and more mountains for them to climb,” Claire said.

“It’s not an easy journey and some days you think she is doing really well are the days she gets a setback. She did have quite a few setbacks.”

With Bonnie also having been born during the height of Covid-19 restrictions, her parents were unable to properly introduce her to family and friends.

Describing the next few weeks as “passing ships in the night”, they took shifts at the hospital while also caring for their five-year-old daughter Anna.

They decided to document the journey, in the hope they can show it to Bonnie when she is older.

The family describe Anna as the ‘perfect’ big sister - lots of the siblings’ early meetings were via zoom due to the pandemic. Credit: Family photo

As well as wanting to thank family and friends, Claire and Jonny have high praise for the medical teams in both the Royal Victoria Hospital and in Craigavon, where Bonnie spend a total of 12 weeks.

“You can't fathom how much of a different type of person they are - they are miracle workers,” Jonny said.

“When we made our way down to delivery, the neonatal team lined the corridor, ready to get Bonnie.”

With his first Father’s Day as a dad of two spent in the neonatal ward, Jonny plans to make this year extra special as a family of four.

Bonnie and her family. Credit: Family photo

Another recent milestone, Bonnie’s first birthday, was a cause for celebration and, to give back to the staff and charity who supported them, the family raised over £4,000 for TinyLife.

“It is such a contrast to where we were last year,” Claire said.

“With a glint in her eye, every day, Bonnie is not looking back on what happened, she is moving on.”

But Claire also noted just how important the support had been during their time on the ward.

“They do have different needs as these babies are weak and TinyLife provide great support for families, so we wanted to be able to give something back,” she said.

Every day in Northern Ireland, six babies are born too soon - some as early as 24 weeks.

TinyLife offers practical and emotional support to the parents of premature and sick babies through a range of services, including baby massage and physio classes, a breast pump loan service, one-to-one support, and a mental health programme.

Bonnie’s family say they have been overwhelmed by the reaction to their journey and the support from relatives, friends, and even strangers who were touched by their story or had come through something similar themselves.

“We were completely blown away by the support of everybody,” Jonny said.

“We aren’t the first people to come through something like this and we certainly won’t be the last.”

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