Woman born dangerously premature dedicates life to saving other tots born early

A woman born dangerously premature has become a doctor who helps save other babies born early.

Sabina Checkett was born two and a half months early weighing just 2lbs and 10oz and she was small enough to fit in her dad’s hand.

Back in 1986 survival chances for premature babies were much worse and she was given just a 50/50 chance.

Because of her own battle for survival the 32-year-old has a special bond with the tiny babies she cares for at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

“I was just like them all those years ago and now I’m helping to look after them,” Sabina told the Mirror.

“I feel like the NHS did me this huge favour and now I’m helping in my own way to pass that karma on.”

Sabina beat the odds as her parents were told that if she did survive, she would be left with multiple health problems.

Times have changed as parents are now actively encouraged to touch and hold their premature babies. When Sabina was born her mother was not allowed to cuddle her for two weeks.

Sabina said: “In the 80s, it was believed that premature babies would have a better chance of survival if they were left alone.

“When I was first born, my parents were only allowed to see me once a day and other relatives were only allowed once a week.”

A major risk for premature babies is breathing problems as their lungs are one of the last things to develop.

Sabina required intubation, which is the process of inserting a tube through the mouth and then into the airway. The tube is connected to a ventilator to assist breathing.

At just two weeks old Sabina’s mother Lynda Morris suddenly noticed her tiny baby daughter had turned blue.

Lynda, 72, said: “I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sure how to sound the alarm so I just began screaming.

“The nurses rushed over and found that her tube had been dislodged and she wasn’t breathing properly. She was fitted with a new tube and quickly regained her colour, but it was a really scary experience.”

Sabina remained in Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for more than three months and went home in February 1987.

She is now a specialist on the neonatal intensive care unit at Evelina London Children’s Hospital – having first deciding she wanted to become a doctor aged just six.

Sabina said: “My school did some fundraising for our local neonatal unit, and because the school knew I was born there prematurely, I went along to visit.

“After walking on the ward and seeing all of the newborn babies in their cots, I came home and told my mum I wanted to be a doctor.”

Sabina, who now lives in Forest Hill in south east London, added: “I knew I needed that human element that being a doctor would give me.

“Though it was a long and often difficult road, I felt like I wanted to give something back to the NHS that had saved my life.”

Evelina London is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Its neonatal unit cares for more than 1,000 babies a year and has some of the best survival rates in the UK.

Dr Grenville Fox, clinical director of Evelina London neonatology, said: “Advances over the last 30 years mean that the outcomes for babies born at 28 weeks is typically far better than when Sabina was born.

“However her story shows that being born prematurely doesn’t necessarily mean it will hold you back.”

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