Sanam Taj (37) works in dietetics at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust but found herself seeing things through the eyes of a patient after giving birth to baby Ava at 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Ava was born weighing just 2lbs 6oz and spent the first nine weeks of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley General Teaching Hospital.
Sanam is married to Razwan, a primary school teacher, and the couple also have sons Safwan (7) and Rohaan (5).
Sanam said: “Safwan was born slightly early at 35 weeks but he did not need admitting to NICU.
“Our second son Rohaan was born at 31 weeks and he was cared for in NICU for about six weeks. He has cerebral palsy and is affected by that.
“As I am prone to having pre-term labour, we were expecting to have Ava early but she arrived even earlier than we thought after my waters broke at 28 weeks.”
As Ava was premature and tiny, she was admitted to NICU where she spent nine weeks but is now home with her family.
Sanam explained: “Ava was small but luckily she needed very little support.
“Ava was on ventilation for a very short time and then on assisted breathing for a few weeks.”
Sanam has praised everyone who cared for her during her pregnancy and looked after Ava and the family during her premature start to life.
Sanam says: “The care we received on NICU was absolutely brilliant from admission to discharge.
“All the nursing staff and doctors were caring and supportive not only to the babies on the unit, but also to the parents.
“We felt we were always involved in Ava’s care and we were given any answers we needed and given regular updates about everything.
“Any support we needed was given readily and nothing was too much trouble and the breastfeeding support was excellent.
“All this wasn’t done in a clinical manner but in a really professional and friendly way.
“I know there can be both good and bad care, but I can honestly say that on NICU all the care was faultless and superb.
“I was looked after really well by the trust all the way through my pregnancy and all the care we received as a family was wonderful.
“I am not biased as someone who works for the Trust but am saying this as a service user and my husband feels completely the same way.
“The nurses and doctors were all brilliant. The nursing staff were extremely caring towards the babies and were very friendly and approachable.”
Sanam wants to reassure other parents who may be facing the prospect of having a baby in NICU and feeling nervous and scared of what lies ahead.
She says: “I would reassure other parents whose baby ends up in NICU that their child will be in safe hands and will be looked after in the best possible way and they will be supported as parents as well.
“Don’t be afraid to ask any questions or if there is anything you are unsure of as the doctors and nurses are so supportive and explain everything really well.
“Burnley General Teaching Hospital was like a second home to us for a while and Ava was affectionately known as a ‘diva’ on the wards as although she is a placid and happy baby, if she is hungry, she won’t wait and you know about it!
“We are loving having Ava at home and her brothers dote on her and love her to bits.”
Dr Naharmal Soni, consultant neonatologist at NICU, says: “The fact that Ava went home from NICU without any oxygen, feeding on her own and gaining weight and developing normally for her age despite being born at 28 weeks is a wonderful outcome.
“We are happy for Ava and her family and this kind of recovery makes our job very rewarding.”