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Stratford couple's appeal after baby Poppy was born premature weighing just 900g




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WATCHING their baby daughter blow out the candles on her birthday cake this week, was a poignant moment for one Stratford couple.

Happy family - James Gee and his partner Bella Kuepper celebrated baby Poppy's first birthday this week at their home in Stratford. Photo: Mark Williamson W11/2/22/5049. (55077377)
Happy family - James Gee and his partner Bella Kuepper celebrated baby Poppy's first birthday this week at their home in Stratford. Photo: Mark Williamson W11/2/22/5049. (55077377)

It’s only 12 months since Bella Kuepper and James Gee’s little girl Poppy was born prematurely at 27 weeks and weighing just 900g – less than a bag of sugar.

Poppy spent the first two months of her life in an incubator, hooked up to heart and oxygen monitors to help her breathe and being fed through a tube.

The couple, who moved to Stratford in July last year, found their lives thrown into turmoil when Bella was referred to hospital due to concerns her baby wasn’t moving enough.

A few hours later, doctors performed an emergency Caesarean and Poppy was whisked off to an incubator.

Poppy in incubator (55081217)
Poppy in incubator (55081217)

Bella said: “I was struggling to come to terms with what had happened.

“The first time I saw Poppy hooked up to all these wires, she looked so tiny and vulnerable I was scared to touch her.”

Even something as simple as changing Poppy’s nappy was fraught with anxiety.

Bella explained: “There are two little holes at the side of the incubator where you put your hands in to do it, and I was terrified I was going to accidentally pull out the tubes.

“But the nurses on the unit were fantastic. They talked us through everything and although it took a few goes, I got the hang of it and it soon became second nature.”

Poppy in incubator (55081215)
Poppy in incubator (55081215)

She added: “There was so much that was out of my control that little things like changing nappies were really important as it made me feel I could do something to help her.”

Bella also learned how to gently wash Poppy with cotton wool and sterile water and carefully lift her out of the incubator for cuddles without dislodging the wires.

Medical alerts were going off constantly around them, including Poppy’s own.

James, a software engineer, explained. “At first, there were warning lights and alarms going off five or six times a day, as either her heart had slowed and there was a risk of not enough oxygen going into her bloodstream, or she wasn’t breathing properly and the nurse would rush over and start rubbing her feet or spine.

“It was scary.”

Poppy in incubator (55081207)
Poppy in incubator (55081207)

Facing two or three round-trips each of an hour-and-a-half from their former home in Buckinghamshire to the hospital, they rented an Airbnb place nearby.

And to add to the challenges, Poppy was born during the UK’s third lockdown, so family and friends weren’t able to offer as much support as they would have done normally.

Finally, in mid-April, Bell and James were given the all-clear to take Poppy home.

And last weekend the couple celebrated Poppy’s first birthday, surrounded by family and friends.

As a way of showing their gratitude for her care, they are raising money for premature baby unit charity BURPS with the aim of buying a special breast pump that costs £1,250 and helping fund a platform for nurses to share pictures and videos of babies with their parents, when they’re away from the unit.

Bella said: “Poppy is such a happy, cheeky little girl and looking at her now, you’d never be able to tell how premature she was.

“She’s our little miracle.”

Poppy in incubator (55081221)
Poppy in incubator (55081221)

She added: “She still has a few pinprick marks from where all the hundreds of blood tests were taken and that’s our reminder of how strong she is.

“She’s a little fighter to have survived against the odds.”

To donate to the premature baby charity, see Bella and James’ fundraising page at www.gofundme.com and search for ‘Poppy turns one by James Gee’.

Happy family - James Gee and his partner Bella Kuepper celebrated baby Poppy's first birthday this week at their home in Stratford. Photo: Mark Williamson W11/2/22/5108. (55077382)
Happy family - James Gee and his partner Bella Kuepper celebrated baby Poppy's first birthday this week at their home in Stratford. Photo: Mark Williamson W11/2/22/5108. (55077382)


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