Holding On

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If ever there’s an example of a mother willing her baby to live, it’s Hazel Vinitha. Her baby boy Benjamin was born at the extremities of life, 15 weeks early. He weighed a mere 550 grams.

He was rushed into the three hushed white rooms of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of The Royal Hospital for Women at Randwick after Hazel had an emergency caesarean, suffering from pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening condition for both mother and baby.

Benji had been fighting for his life for over a month, lying wreathed in tubes and drips inside his incubator. He was in the very best of care in the NICU, where eight specialists provide complex care for the tiniest and most fragile patients. But like most NICU patients, life was still precarious, and when he developed an infection that injured his kidney, things began looking grim.

“It was the worst moment of my life,” recalls Hazel. “I walked in, and there was a cluster of doctors around him looking very serious. I reached out and put my hand on him inside the incubator. I was speaking life into him. I said to him very confidently. ‘You haven’t come here to die. You will not leave us. I will never give up on you.’ A few seconds later, his colour changed. He turned a rosy pink. I think he heard me loud and clear.”

Despite multiple setbacks, Benji slowly began putting on weight. Finally, after more than five months in The Royal’s NICU, and a few weeks at St George hospital learning to bottle and breast feed, Hazel and her partner Johnny were able to take him home to Bexley, in southern Sydney.

One of the things Hazel loved about the NICU was the way they encouraged her and Johnny to get hands-on with Benji as much as they could, even though he seemed so fragile. That included “Kangaroo care” whereby Hazel cuddled her tiny boy on her chest for several hours a day.

The day they took Benji home was one of mixed emotions: “I was so excited to go, but also nervous and scared to be leaving the support of the NICU staff. Johnny

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