“We have five minutes left to get this baby out.”

Those are the words Kerry Myles heard when she was in labour just 26 weeks into her pregnancy.

Kerry, from Worthing, was surrounded by nine doctors in the delivery room in 2019. There was a team for her and a separate specialist neonatal team for baby Alfie.

But Alfie was not born in Sussex. In fact, his story begins thousands of miles away in the United States.

“After a five-day mini break to New York and Boston, I was 23 weeks and five days pregnant when I boarded the plane to fly home to the UK,” said Kerry.

“However, moments before take-off I suffered a placental abruption and was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.”

The Argus: Alfie weighed just 964g when he was bornAlfie weighed just 964g when he was born (Image: Supplied)

Kerry spent 17 days between a high-risk labour and delivery unit and a pre-/post-partum ward being monitored closely and unable to leave the hospital.

She was given steroids to strengthen Alfie’s lungs and a magnesium drip which meant she could not eat or drink through her mouth.

“After a period of stability we were hoping to get a med-flight home around 26 weeks so that we were home for Christmas. But our son had other ideas,” said Kerry.

She was rushed back to the high-risk unit where she spent two further days, before little Alfie made his first appearance.

At 3.30pm, October 27, Kerry’s waters broke and at 4.45pm she gave birth to her miracle baby, who weighed just 2lb 2oz – or 964g. 

“The birth itself was incredibly traumatic,” said Kerry.

The Argus: Kerry was only allowed to see her son for brief momentsKerry was only allowed to see her son for brief moments (Image: Supplied)

“Alfie was born face-presented and, due to the speed of labour, this wasn’t known until mid-way through delivery at which point it was too late for a C-section.

“It also meant the heart rate probe that would normally attach to the top of a baby’s head, attached to his forehead leaving him permanently scarred. 

“The words ‘we have five minutes left to get this baby out’ will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

“Just like that, I’d given birth and my baby was intubated immediately and rushed off to the neonatal intensive care (NICU). All I could think about was whether I would ever see him again.

After three hours, Kerry was taken to the NICU to see Alfie, who was just 32cm in length.

He was in an incubator, his face severely bruised from being face-presented – which is when the baby delivers face first,  rather than the top of the head -– and  it was “difficult to make out any facial features”.

Alfie wore goggles over his eyes to protect him from the UV lights and a SteriStrip across his forehead where the surgeon had repaired his wound.

The Argus: Alfie wore goggles to protect his visionAlfie wore goggles to protect his vision (Image: Supplied)

“After a few hours I was taken back to the ward where I would spend the next two nights, said Kerry.

“I remember walking past other rooms and seeing mums cuddling their babies while I lay there awake for most of the night trying to comprehend what had just happened.”

Kerry was first able to hold her son eight hours after he was born.

“His skin was so fragile where it hadn’t fully formed and he was unable to maintain his temperature for long,” she said.

“I managed to hold him for about seven minutes but his oxygen rate kept dropping so we returned him to the incubator. I was able to hold him another two times that week for about 30 minutes in total.

“When Alfie was about two weeks old he was finally able to be held for about 30 minutes a day and this gradually increased as he became stronger.”

The Argus: Alfie and his mum spent 102 days in NICUAlfie and his mum spent 102 days in NICU (Image: Supplied)

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Some 102 days after first going into the NICU, Kerry and Alfie left the US and flew to the UK. The pair spent a further two weeks in East Surrey Hospital where they learned to breastfeed. On January 23, they finally went home – ten days before Kerry’s due date.

“When Covid-19 hit we had already been in lockdown effectively for the past five months,” said Kerry.

“Having a premature baby is incredibly scary and lonely in itself, but to go through our experience in a different country followed by a global pandemic has without doubt been the hardest experience of my life. I am thankful every day to our NICU family for saving our miracle boy.”

Alfie, now four, is happy, healthy, and loving life.

On February 24, Kerry will be running 26km from the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton to Goring to raise funds for  premature baby charity the Smallest Thing.

The Argus: Kerry and Alfie enjoying a day at the beachKerry and Alfie enjoying a day at the beach (Image: Supplied)

The distance represents Alfie’s 26 weeks’ gestation.

She will be running from 2am to 2pm – Alfie weighed 2lb 2oz – and she will split the journey at three-hourly intervals to signify how infrequently she was allowed to touch her baby.

Her aim was to raise £1,000 but she has already beaten that target and currently has more than £2,100. People can still donate via her justgiving page, which is called The Small But Mighty Challenge.

The funds will go to premature baby charity The Smallest Thing. You can donate to her fundraiser here.