How my baby survived being born at 23 weeks

Sare Demir and baby Yusuf
Yusuf is one of the few babies to survive after being born at just 23 weeks gestation. Here, first time mum Sare Demir shares her journey for the Women's Miracle Mums Appeal.
9 May 2017 | Fundraising | Pregnancy and newborns | Research and clinical trials

Yusuf is one of the few babies to survive after being born at just 23 weeks gestation. Here first time mum Sare Demir shares her journey for the Miracle Mums Appeal

The cramping started at 23 weeks and I thought nothing of it. But they became more frequent and it was my husband who insisted that we go to hospital. It was there that we received the news no parent wants: I was in labour.

Doctors told me my son had less than a 50 per cent chance of surviving and if he did, there was only a 25 per cent chance he would be healthy.

As I went into the delivery room, everything seemed surreal, I couldn’t believe it was happening, but I believed my son would be ok. Yusuf survived the birth, his first day, then the first week, but it was a roller coaster - some days he was fighting for each breath, his barely developed lungs collapsed twice and his heart wasn’t fully formed for two months.

And then, a moment of joy when, five days after he was born, we could hold him for the first time. It was during that moment that I felt like a mother, this was my baby, my responsibility.

Sare Demir with her husband Burak in the NICU when Yusuf was three months old.
Sare Demir with her husband Burak in the NICU when Yusuf was three months old.

My husband, like most parents, was initially bewildered by the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) experience: this parallel world of beeps and machines, tubes going into and out of our baby.  But I was familiar with premature babies. My brothers had been born in the same hospital 21 years earlier at 25 weeks gestation. While it meant I didn’t feel completely alien to NICU, I was frightened. Both my brothers have disabilities that were caused by being born too early. Would our son be ok?

I found myself constantly comparing the medicine, the treatment then and now, all of it worlds apart.

Twenty-one years ago, my brothers were on ventilators for five months. Now doctors know it causes damage to the lungs. There are new breathing supports that are much gentler on the lungs and babies spend much less time needing help to breathe.

It was many months before my mother got to hold my brothers. It was thought best that they stay in their crib where everything was controlled. But researchers at the Women’s this year completed a study showing it was safe and good for the smallest of premature babies to be held skin to skin with their parent as often as possible. When we held our baby, his vitals would become steady the moment he touched my chest. I have no doubt it was amongst his best medicine.

We saw the advances in medical research every day in the treatment our son received. It is why we said yes to every research trial the neonatal team was running, four in all. Our little boy has benefited from the advances that the doctors have made and the families that came before us who agreed for their babies to be involved in the research. We hope our son will help future NICU babies too. 

After 125 days our baby left the NICU. He keeps me awake every night now at home and is going strong.

Please give generously to the Miracle Mums Appeal so the Women’s can undertake more research so more babies born too early like Yusuf can survive and lead a full and healthy life.

Media contact

For more information contact Krista Eleftheriou on (03) 8345 2028 or Michelle Carnovale on (03) 8345 2921.


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