When Sheila Bhatti of Uxbridge, Middlesex, went in for a 20 week ultrasound scan, what doctors discovered was heartbreaking. Previously, Sheila was diagnosed with PPROM- pre-term premature rupture of membranes, but the ultrasound confirmed that the situation was even worse. Sheila’s water had broken at 16 weeks and her baby had been rapidly losing amniotic fluid.
Doctors could detect a heartbeat but could not see the baby and the decrease of amniotic fluid prevented doctors from determining if the baby was a boy or girl.
It was then that doctors delivered even more devastating news.
“The doctors told me they were certain my baby couldn’t survive to a viable gestation and that I should consider terminating there and then. I couldn’t believe it,” said Sheila.
However, Sheila refused to terminate, holding on to love and hope for her baby.
“I loved my baby already and I couldn’t terminate,” said Sheila. “And when my baby continued to cling on despite having been given a less than one per cent survival chance my husband Wahab agreed that where there was life there was hope.’
Sheila was admitted to a ward where doctors could monitor the health of both mother and baby. Sheila spent a month in bed rest as doctors waited for the baby to reach 24 weeks- the gestational age a baby is deemed viable and doctors able to provide life-saving treatment.
Sheila was transferred to Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital for additional support in a premature delivery, but doctors, who were cautious and preparing for the worst, asked Sheila about funeral arrangements.
“I kept telling them, ‘But my baby is still alive’. They looked at me with pity, replying, ‘I think it’s very unlikely it will survive’. I wasn’t naïve. I knew my baby could have disabilities and other problems, but I knew that whatever difficulties it faced I would be there,” said Sheila.
At 24 weeks, Sheila received steroid injections to help the baby’s underdeveloped lungs.
“That felt like the first time my baby had actually received any help to live, rather than just being offered help to die,” Sheila said.
On November 14, 2015, Sheila gave birth by cesarean section at 28 weeks and five days.
“It all happened so quickly,’ said Sheila. “I knew at last my baby was a boy but at first, I didn’t know if he was alive. We named him Rayyan, which means ‘wise’, as he was already beating the odds of survival”
Rayyan weighed just two pounds at birth, but continued to fight during the following months and receiving blood transfusions and a surgery to remove a hernia. After spending five months in the neonatal intensive care unit, Rayyan went home weighing nine pounds. Though Rayyan suffers from chronic lung disease, his condition continues to improve.
Sheila wants her story to inspire hope for others facing similar situations.
“We don’t know what the future holds but we’re just happy he’s alive. It may take him longer than normal to get better from childhood illnesses. But his whole life he’s kept proving everyone wrong and I hope my story gives other mums hope,” Sheila said.