Although her mum was told she was unlikely to survive, Naomi Gill, 20, from Uckfield, has defied the medical profession.
As one of the first generation of very premature babies who grew up to become a healthy young adult, her amazing life story was chronicled in the Daily Mail on Monday.
From her unexpectedly early birth at just 25 weeks, Naomi is now a successful and confident final year student at the University of Gloucestershire on the BA(Hons) Performing Arts course.
Melanie, 54, an education lecturer at the University of Brighton, said Naomi was no bigger than the palm of her father’s hand. She explained: “It was awful. We couldn’t hold her until she was a week old - bonding with your baby isn’t really possible in that environment.”
Naomi was born, weighing just 2lbs 1oz at the Mayday Hospital, Croydon. She was transferred to Trevor Mann, Brighton at about two months and then to the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath before coming home. Melanie was told her daughter had a high chance of having severe learning difficulties and would probably never go to mainstream school.
Her story came to light when medics involved her in a landmark British study researching the long-term impact of spending your earliest days in an incubator. She is one of 314 babies being studied who were born in the UK at 26 weeks or less between March and December 1995.
Babies as young as 26 weeks only started to survive in the early 80s when neonatal units introduced ventilation machines. Dr Judith Meek, a consultant neonatologist at University College London Hospital pointed out over-stimulating immature babies in a brightly lit, noisy intensive care unit could damage their central nervous system. And although her parents were told their daughter could be deaf, blind or have significant learning disabilities, Naomi has confounded expectations, thanks to her astonishing courage and personality.
As a teenager she was diagnosed with dyslexia and learning to memorise lines and dance routines could be a struggle, but Melanie said: “She’s so determined she even passed her driving test first time. She only has 50 per cent lung function but she sings, dances and acts and is a real credit to us and the doctors and medical professionals who have cared for her.” Studies show it’s only now that the first of these medical marvels reached adulthood and Melanie is proud Naomi has the spark and attitude to make a nonsense of the gloomiest of predictions.
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