‘She wins the hearts of everyone she meets’ – Brave Hartlepool baby survives life-saving operation

editorial image

TINY Isabella Gill clings to life just hours after undergoing intricate throat surgery at just over a year old.

The little battler was left fighting for her life in an incubator after complications during her birth.

But after three weeks in a special baby care unit, Isabella, who has Down’s syndrome, survived against the odds.

Yet since developing a chest infection when she was five months old, her breathing problems recurred and have continued to deteriorate.

In order to improve her condition, medics suggested Isabella should undergo a tracheostomy operation.

“Her breathing problems were putting pressure on her heart so the operation was for the best,” said mum Donna Fenwick who lives with Isabella’s Dad Daniel Gill, in Abigail Walk, along with Donna’s eldest daughter Robyn, 16.

During the surgical procedure at Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital earlier this month, a breathing valve was fitted in Isabella’s windpipe and is excepted to be a temporary measure for a year until her airways have matured.

Donna, a 41-year-old ICT officer for Hartlepool Borough Council, added: “Waiting to her hear how the operation had gone was like an eternity.

“We were told about the risks with general anaesthetic so we were so relieved that it was a success.”

The first week of her recovery progress has been testing for the couple, who have been together for six years.

Donna and Daniel, 41, a finance officer, are responsible for Isabella’s trachea maintenance.

She added: “Her airways are so small that she can’t cough up the secretions on her own so we have to do it.

“Also air doesn’t pass over Izzy’s voice box so she can’t make any noises, not even cry.

“I can see the frustration on her face, it’s heartbreaking especially as she had just started to say her first words.

“In a few weeks she’ll get a breathing aid which will let her breath in through the valve then out through the mouth but that will take her time to learn how to use it.”

Isabella’s health problems started the moment she was born, when she arrived three weeks early on April 6, 2013.

She weighed in at a healthy 6lbs 7oz, but was unable to breath properly after complications.

“The birth was traumatic, Dan was shocked to see two feet come out first then she got stuck and breathed in liquids so was put on ventilation straight away as she couldn’t breath on her own.

“She was rushed away and I didn’t see her for four hours. It was awful, I just wanted to hold her.

“It was daunting to see her in incubation, she was covered in tubes and looked like a giant compared to the other babies.

“I expected to be able to cuddle her but all we could do was care for her through the doors on the incubator.”

It was four days before the couple could pick up their precious daughter for a cuddle.

“I had the first cuddle which was emotional. It was difficult she was so fragile and I was nervous about knocking her breathing tubes, it wasn’t a proper mummy baby hug, ” said Donna.

“She started breathing funny when she got a nasty chest infection. I had to drive her to hospital and was afraid for her life.

“Dan was trying to comfort her and we didn’t know what was wrong, I just wanted to get her there as quick as possible.”

Isabella is still in hospital under the watchful eye of medics, but Donna is looking forward to her daughter being allowed home in the next couple of weeks and eventually leading a normal life.

“I’m looking forward to being able to care for her but I’m anxious about it,” said Donna.

“Loads of people have been sending kind messages on Facebook.

“I think when Izzy is home and fit enough I’ll have a little tea party so people can come and meet her.

“She has a very bubbly personality which is infectious, she wins the hearts of everyone she meets.

“We are going to do some sort of sponsored charity event to help raise funds for the hospital who have been great.”