“Each night we feared it would be our last” – Dawn’s Story

Dawn and Daniel are connected by two things; their dedication to fundraising for our work and the desire to change the outcome for babies born too soon. They were, by chance reconnected in October 2021, in time for us to share their story on World Prematurity Day.

Dawn is mother to Gabriel, aged 3, and a passionate supporter of Borne raising over £3,000 for our work. This year Dawn rallied a team to run the Stirling Half Marathon which has been postponed to May 2022. They ran their own half marathon in place of this year’s official event. Dawn has also found creative and engaging ways to fundraise for Borne and raise awareness of premature birth, using her business platform on Instagram.

Dr Daniel Short is a Clinical Research Fellow undertaking research into the causes and treatment of premature birth. In October 2021, he ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon alongside a team of clinicians and researchers who all fundraised for Borne.

Dawn and Daniel are connected by premature birth and were recently reunited through their desire to improve the outcome for babies born too soon. In October, we shared Daniel’s recent fundraising efforts and Dawn reached out to us, shocked and surprised – Daniel was the doctor that delivered her son.

Dawn Stirling Half Marathon Oct21
Royal Parks Half Mara Brendan Daniel Conor Oct 21

On 8th August 2018 Dawn was in the car, on the phone to the hospital alerting them that her baby was imminently going to be born. At 30 weeks gestation, Dawn’s baby is medically classed as premature.

Dawn made it to the delivery room with minutes to spare before her son, Gabriel arrived, both surrounded by a buzzing team of midwives, nurses, neonatologists and obstetricians.

Through the chaos Dr Daniel Short entered with a calm smile, Dawn remembers him saying: “everything is going to be fine, I am here to deliver your baby safely”.

With the traumatic and unexpected journey to the hospital, Dawn was filled with fear. There was no time to ask why this was happening or provide the known medications such as steroids, antibiotics or magnesium sulphate that could try and delay labour or to protect the baby’s preterm brain.

“One of the biggest issues we face is that around 80% of women who have a premature birth have no identifiable risk factors at the beginning of their pregnancy.” Dr Daniel Short

Daniel told Dawn that once her baby was delivered, he would be put straight into a bag. Dawn said: “I didn’t understand why but what I did know was that I was in the best hands. Dr Daniel Short filled me with complete confidence. I knew he was going to do the best he could for my son and I.”

Daniel remembered Dawn was incredibly calm and composed as a whirlwind of activity took place around her. Dawn put her trust in him completely. She said, “My husband and I decided we wanted to honour such a great doctor by adding Daniel to our sons middle name.”

Daniel was in his fourth year of training in obstetrics and gynaecology when he met Dawn. It was his first obstetrics placement as a medical student and he wasn’t sure what to expect, “I went in with an open mind and was amazed by the strength of the mothers, and the care they received from such a wide range of different healthcare professionals.”

Dawn knew nothing about premature birth. Her pregnancy was ‘perfect’, she could feel her baby kicking and was the happiest she had ever been awaiting the birth of their very much prayed for and already loved baby. There were no warning signs at all.

“We were catapulted into a world we knew nothing about.”

Dawn and little Gabriel’s journey had only just begun. Gabriel was taken to the intensive care unit where he spent 6 weeks hooked up to life saving machines. He suffered a bleed on his brain, jaundice, a heart defect, and had c-pap to aid his breathing.

Dawn Ferguson and Gabriel

The emotional toll premature birth has on the mother, her partner and their family is enormous. Dawn had woken that morning expecting her baby to arrive 10 weeks later; however, she was immediately thrown into the unknown. Instead of taking her baby straight home she had to prepare herself for Gabriel to have a long stay in neonatal intensive care and special care baby unit. Daniel said, “I can remember the day she left the hospital with tears in her eyes as she left her son for the very first time. The emotional toll is unthinkable.”

Days passed before Dawn and her husband could hold their son. There were no facilities for families to stay overnight with their premature babies. Each night for 6 long weeks they had to walk away and leave their precious boy in hospital. Each night they would walk down the corridor and back again, to get one last look through the window of the doors, to have “one last check” on his machines, just to make sure they weren’t alarming.

“Each night we feared it would be the last… the sounds of the machines still haunt my sleep.”

Gabriel is now 3 years old and since then she relives that day, questioning herself. “Did I do something wrong? Why has this happened to me? Why us? There has to be a reason.”

In the UK, 1 in 13 babies are born preterm; that is, more than 3 weeks before the baby’s due date. And, despite the heartache hundreds of thousands of families endure each year and the cost to care for these children, not just when they are born but for some, the rest of their lives – little is known about what causes preterm birth and how it can be prevented.

Dawn never received an explanation as to why she went into preterm labour. One year on, a letter was delivered in the post explaining her placenta had been analysed and it was determined healthy. The cause of her early labour was simply “unexplained.”

Delivering prematurely can also leave a lasting impact on the mother and their partner. The experience left Dawn with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), triggering anxiety from the after affects of trauma.

Gabriel is also still impacted by the effects of being born too soon. He has ongoing appointments with various specialists, consultants, and paediatricians at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, and “has a long road ahead of him.”

Dawn Ferguson and Gabriel

Raising awareness around the devastating and sometimes, lifelong impact preterm birth has on mothers and families has driven Dawn and Daniel to fundraise for Borne. Daniel said, “I have the privilege of working alongside a number of dedicated and passionate people at Borne, conducting research into causes and treatment of preterm birth. I couldn’t think of a better charity to run for and to proudly sport the logo as I ran around the capital. Hopefully it helped spread the word.”

Dawn is passionate about our research to find answers “it can happen to anyone without reason, there needs to be a better understanding of the people who are at risk to stop families experiencing this heartache.”

Daniel hopes that the research into preterm birth will provide better screening for risk of preterm birth and safe and effective treatments for women who present in preterm labour. Babies born prematurely have a significant increase of dying, and those that survive are at increased risk of lifelong mental and physical disability.

“Every child deserves the right to fulfil their greatest potential and preventing preterm birth will help them do that.”

Dawn reflects on the day her son was born and the 6 long weeks that came after it. Dawn said, “If I could go back and give myself some kind words it would be to know that the dark days will pass. There will be light again.”

We are sharing Dawn’s story to raise awareness for World Prematurity Day on 17th November. If you would like to support us in raising awareness, you can share your story on social media using the #BorneTooSoon and tagging us in using @BorneCharity. Or share this story with your family and friends.

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