A Remarkable Tale of Triumph from Prematurity to Prep

23 January 2024
Arthur Gibbs

This month, five-year-old Arthur Gibbs is set to achieve a milestone as he begins his journey into Prep, a moment that holds profound significance for his mother, Alison Gibbs.

Arthur's remarkable start to life began when he was born prematurely at 29 weeks and six days and is a testament to his resilience and the unwavering support of his family and the medical teams who played a crucial role in his survival.

Arthur's early days were marred by a traumatic entrance into the world. Alison, his mother, experienced an abruption and haemorrhage, leading to emergency surgery. Following his birth, Arthur spent time in a neonatal intensive care unit, battling a brain bleed.

In her courage, Alison has shared her story in the hope of providing solace to parents experiencing similar challenges with prematurely born children.

She highlighted the isolating and stressful nature of premature births, drawing attention to the mental health toll it takes on parents.

Alison, tragically lost her first child at 19 weeks gestation, an investigation to the pregnancy revealed she suffered from blood clots which impacted her placenta.

She fell pregnant again with her second child, Elizabeth and while considered high risk was fortunate enough to carry the pregnancy to term delivering her at 38 weeks via an elective c-section with the help of Obstetrician Dr Melinda Heywood.

When Alison fell pregnant with her son Arthur in 2017 she was still considered a high risk but manageable pregnancy, she had been in hospital the days before he was born but then went home for some rest with her husband instructed to stay by her side.

“It was a Monday morning, I was not feeling Arthur move and I was trying to change positions to see if he would start kicking again, I went to the bathroom where I began haemorrhaging,” she said.

After being rushed to the Wesley Hospital Alison arrived on the maternity ward and recalls doctors and midwives rushing in to help her, they were very reassuring and quickly found Arthur’s heartbeat.

Alison recalls the overwhelming emotion of seeing her obstetrician Melinda walking into the room and stating, “We’re going to have a baby” as she was taken into theatre.

Arthur's birth presented critical challenges, Alison explains the paediatrician’s Dr David Moore and Dr Bruce Lewis “saved his life while Melinda saved mine as I continued to bleed out.”

Due to his fragile condition Arthur needed to be transferred to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) for specialised intensive care.

Alison still waking from surgery was unable to hold Arthur and barely able to see him, she remembers reaching out to feel his presence before he was taken away by a specialised neo-natal transfer team.

Alison's own recovery at the Wesley Hospital required three blood transfusions, by the Wednesday evening she was deemed strong enough to travel to the RBWH to see her son.

Requiring a wheelchair Alison remembers very clearly entering the unit and becoming hysterical at the sight of her fragile son in intensive care, weighing only 1.63kg, ventilated with an umbilical tube.

After spending some time with him she returned to the Wesley Hospital for follow up care till she was discharged on the Friday and was able to be by Arthur’s side at the RBWH.

While in intensive care doctors made a shocking discovery of a bilateral grade 4 brain bleed which heightened the challenges for Arthur's future. Doctors warned of potential permanent disabilities, including cerebral palsy.

After three weeks at the RBWH Arthur was strong enough to return to the Wesley Hospital Special Care Unit where he spent the next five weeks becoming stronger, healthier and gaining weight.

Paediatrician David Moore guided Alison through the diagnosis of the brain bleed explaining they would need to take each day as it comes and not to worry about future possibilities.

“This reassurance helped me not to jump to the worst-case scenario, Melinda was also incredibly helpful telling me not to worry about the what ifs and deal with what I know and what is happening now,” she said.

Despite the bleed on his brain Arthur has had no significant issues and only experienced some weakness in his legs which was corrected with the guidance of a paediatric physiotherapist.

Alison also explained he has had several scans and check-ups and even taken part in a neo-natal research study to ensure he has remained healthy.

She emphasises the unique bond formed in the Special Care Unit, where families shared stories and leaned on each other for support.

Yet, the emotional toll on parents is undeniable. Both Alison and her husband experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), prompting Alison to advocate for more discussions around the mental health challenges parents face in such situations.

After spending a total of eight weeks in care Arthur was able to go home to his loving family and is a happy healthy five-year-old who loves Lego and playing with his big sister.

This January Arthur is starting Prep and has defied the initial prognosis he has made remarkable progress.

As Arthur embarks on this new chapter, Alison reflects on the emotional rollercoaster they endured. She describes Arthur as an incredibly kind and patient child, expressing immense pride in his journey and how far he has come.

This triumphant story of Arthur Gibbs stands as a beacon of hope for families facing similar challenges, shedding light on the strength that can emerge from adversity.

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