If Francesca Bradley-Curran had been born 48 hours earlier, the doctors might have let her die. In Britain the abortion limit is 24 weeks along in the pregnancy (due to the viability of a baby living outside of the womb at that stage). Many doctors choose to not attempt saving a baby born before the viability limit according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"I didn't think she would be here. It's scary to think if she had been just two days earlier they wouldn't have worked to save her," Victoria Bradleysaid.
The fact that Francesca even existed was a miracle. Victoria and Paul Curran were told that it was unlikely they would get pregnant naturally. So, they were both surprised to discover in December of 2015 that they were expecting a baby.
Twenty-four weeks into the pregnancy Victoria rushed to the hospital with an infection. Her body naturally went into labor, which both saved the baby's life (as the infection would have killed the fetus) and put it in jeopardy. Her little girl, Francesca, was born weighing just one pound and six ounces.
"I thought she still looked like a fetus," Victoria said. "Her skin was see-through, and she didn't have eyelashes or eyebrows. Her eyes weren't open yet."
Francesca was not breathing and had no heartbeat at birth. For six minutes doctors and nurses worked on the little baby before rushing her to intensive care in the Neonatal Unit.
"After Francesca was born, nurses actually gave me a memory box, which they do for babies that die at birth," Victoria said. "They took prints of her hands and feet for me."
Her feet were the size of a British penny (which is larger than an American penny), and her hands the size of a thumbnail.
For almost 17 weeks Francesca was receiving treatment in the hospital. She had 15 blood transfusions, sepsis three times, two collapsed lungs, an acute kidney injury and laser eye surgery. For 40 days she was on ventilation before switching to another form of oxygen support.
"Over the 17 weeks she spent in hospital we literally watched her grow into a baby in front of us. It was like seeing a miracle," said Victoria.
"Baby Francesca was born at a time in the pregnancy when the outlook for survival is very uncertain," said Bill Yoxall, Consultant and Clinical Director at the Liverpool Women's Hospital. "She faced significant challenges, but we are delighted for her and her family that she has come through these successfully and that the family are now all at home together."
Nine months after Francesca's birth she weighed 15 pounds and two ounces. She soon will celebrate her first birthday.
"She's just a joy, she's so happy and she's cheeky too," Victoria said. "It's just great to finally have her home."