Baby Archie's journey home for Christmas

Last Christmas, Sarah and James’ world turned upside down after their baby boy was rushed into the world at just 26 weeks gestation. This year, they are celebrating their Christmas miracle.

Baby Archie was born via emergency caesarean, weighing a tiny 509 grams after mum, Sarah became severely sick with complications of preeclampsia. Due to his extreme prematurity, he had chronic lung disease, short gut syndrome and jaundice.

Archie was transferred to Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (SCH), where he went on to have seven operations and more than 20 blood transfusions. He was also placed on a ventilator to help him breathe but it was touch and go.

“Those first weeks were so hard, Archie was so sick. We couldn’t touch him or hold him. It was absolutely heartbreaking,” Sarah said.

“The number of times people would say it did not look good for him, but Archie would prove every single person wrong. He is so unbelievably strong and resilient.”

Archie relied on his ventilator to breathe for the next seven weeks but as time passed, his carbon dioxide levels became too high and his medical team decided to trial him on the Trilogy EVO BiPAP ventilator.

The machine is a portable, non-invasive form of ventilation that gives a higher respiratory pressure when the child breathes in to push air into the lungs, and reduces it when the child breathes out. This differs from a conventional CPAP machine which delivers a constant pressure as the patient breathes in and out.

It is also one of the only machines in the world that can be used in babies as small as Archie.

“Archie’s lungs were too small for him, so the machine gives his muscles a rest and supports every breath that he takes,” said Associate Professor Arthur Teng, Head of Sleep Medicine at SCH.

Thankfully, the trial was a success and avoided Archie needing a tracheostomy, (a secured breathing tube in his throat) which does carry significantly higher risks of infection and complications.

Within a few days, Archie was able to be weaned off oxygen and was able to rely solely on the BiPAP machine. Over time, he continued to improve and now only relies on the machine for sleeps.

“We never thought we would be able to see our beautiful baby’s face breathing on his own and the BiPAP machine made this all happen so fast,” Sarah said.

Potentially the biggest benefit of all though is that the machine allowed six-month-old Archie to go home for the first time – a milestone achieve in July this year.

“The machine improved Archie’s breathing dramatically and because it is portable, it allowed him to get home months before he should have,” Sarah said.

Sarah and her husband James are thankful for Archie’s sleep team and the nurses on C1 South, who trained and educated them on how to use the BiPAP machine at home.

“The transition home has been amazing and it was so nice to finally be home altogether as a family of three after 6 and a half months in hospital,” Sarah said.

“This is truly the most amazing piece of equipment.”

Archie is now approaching his first birthday and has come a long way with his development; doing tummy time and rolling front to back. He is also babbling, smiling and making cooing noises, which Sarah said is amazing to see after what he’s been through.

“This is not the start to parenthood we expected, but to see Archie doing things we didn’t think he would ever be able to do is just incredible. Our specialists, surgeons, doctors, and nurses have changed our lives and for that, we are forever grateful.”