Little Millie Bushell’s parents describe her as a “warrior” and an “absolute miracle” - and they now have their daughter home after she was born 17 weeks prematurely during lockdown.

The tiny baby weighed only 657 grams – 1lb 7oz – when she arrived after just 23 weeks on April 26.

But after a start to life that has involved three hospitals, a heart operation, six or seven infections, as many blood transfusions and the coronavirus pandemic, overjoyed mum and dad Tiffany and Matthew Bushell were able to take their child back to their South Oxhey home last Wednesday.

Tiffany said: “It’s still not her due date but she’s home and she’s 15 weeks old [last] Sunday. It’s just crazy.”

Matthew added: “We’re out of the woods but we had to fight out of the woods.”

Watford Observer:

A very happy family heading home last week

Millie’s incredible story is even more moving because her parents have lost children previously. Their first daughter, Ruby, passed away and Matthew also lost a son, Mason, ten years ago.

Tiffany said: “We always feel that Ruby and Mason have always been with her and looked down and watched over her. We had to have this baby come home. We couldn’t lose another.

“We’ve all had that determination, especially her. I want to say she’s breezed through it. She hasn’t, it’s been hard but she’s come out the other side and is so strong.”

The couple, who live in Barnhurst Path, already considered Millie an “absolute miracle” because she was conceived naturally; Ruby had been an IVF baby.

Tiffany, who works for an embroidery company, explained: “The pregnancy was going really well, I was obviously being monitored for anything because of what happened last time, and then at 20 weeks I went in for a routine scan and my cervix was open, so I was taken down for surgery to put a stitch in place. Then three weeks later Millie decided she was coming.

“My waters broke at home so we went to Watford, but we had to be transferred to Chertsey in Surrey, as it was safer for her to be delivered in a level three neo-natal unit because she was so premature.”

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Millie was born at 2.04pm on April 26 at St Peter’s Hospital and, remarkably, was able to breath unaided at first. After two days though, she had to be ventilated and “that was when everything started to happen”.

Tiffany said: “She had chest infections from being ventilated, she had the hole in the heart which every baby is born with but they close within the first few hours, but Millie was so premature it didn’t close.”

She was briefly transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital in London for surgery to correct this before returning to Surrey.

As if the circumstances were not tough enough for Tiffany and her husband, who is a lorry driver, they also had lockdown to contend with.

Tiffany explained: “Matt was only allowed in for ten minutes after the delivery then Millie was taken away and Matt had to leave.

“For the first week, he wasn’t allowed to come in and see her at all, it was only me. And I was only allowed for two hours a day, which was just awful. We were so far away from her and only allowed to go for two hours, so we did struggle with that.”

Millie was able to be moved back to Watford General Hospital at the end of June, where she had to fight off another infection after her first set of immunisations. She had continued to feed well and grow though, allowing her to leave hospital last week weighing 5lb 4oz.

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Despite Millie's tough start to life, her mum is positive about her daughter’s long-term prospects.

“She has been diagnosed with chronic lung disease, so she requires the oxygen at home,” Tiffany said. “It’s something she’ll always have but as she gets older it’s easier for her as obviously the lungs continue to grow.

“The device in her heart that they placed to close the hole has moved slightly, so she has ongoing check-ups to make sure she won’t need any further surgery, but they’re confident she won’t.

“As she grows things will get easier and better for her. They’re really impressed with her weight at the moment. It’s just a case of letting her grow.”