When Lewis Delalande was born 15 weeks early he weighed little more than a carton of eggs and faced an uphill fight to survive.
But 15 months on he's not just surviving, but thriving at home in Ballarat after spending his first 135 days of life in hospital.
In that four and a half months in hospital he experienced two brain bleeds, retinopathy of prematurity (an eye problem common in premature babies), needed five blood transfusions, surgery to repair a hernia, blood infections and chronic lung disease.
And he was on several different types of breathing support because he kept "forgetting to breathe".
The family was thrust in to the world of premature babies, neonatal intensive care and support from the Life's Little Treasures organisation when mum Carly Delalande's waters broke when she was just 24 weeks pregnant.
She was rushed from Ballarat to the Royal Women's Hospital with medical staff unsure whether Lewis would be born that day or hold on. A week later he arrived, weighing 763g and measuring 32cm.
As if the stress of having a dangerously ill premature baby was not enough Ms Delalande and her partner Paul Taylor spent almost all of Lewis' 125 days at the Royal Women's time in Melbourne's hard stage-four lockdown, unable to get support from family or friends living nearby.
And apart from the first three or four weeks of his life, only one parent was allowed to visit Lewis at a time meaning most of his 'firsts', like his first bath and first surgery, had only one parent present.
Despite all this, Ms Delalande said Lewis' progression through the early months was "a pretty good run" for a baby born at 25 weeks.
"Now he's doing really well and hitting all the milestones for his corrected age of 12 months," she said. "With premature babies everything is calculated on corrected age so because he was born at 25 weeks, 15 weeks early, they consider that time he would have been in the womb so milestones are measures from due date onwards."
The couple were given accommodation near the Royal Women's Hospital so they could be close to Lewis as he grew, and Ms Delalande pumped breast milk to feed her tiny son and give him the best chance to thrive.
"It was tough. We couldn't have visitors at all the whole time we were in hospital. Normally you can nominate three or four people to come in like grandparents, but even his brother didn't meet him until he was home from hospital.
"Obviously no NICU journey or premature journey when they are born that little or early is easy but you just have to take it day by day because when they are born so little it can turn quite quickly in wrong direction."
When Lewis was nearing the end of his time in hospital he was transferred back to Ballarat Base Hospital for 10 days before finally heading home.
"I got to 'room in' with him for two nights before he came home so I could do all the changes, feeds and care and it was very exciting when we finally got to bring him home. We bought him a little graduation outfit for the day.
"We just sat in the bedroom and kept an eye on him that first 24 hours at home. He was due in September so was about one month old corrected when we came home so he was still sleeping much of the day like any one-month-old - just sleeping and eating."
After Lewis' birth Ms Delalande learned of the work that the Life's Little Treasures organisation does for the parents and families of premature babies.
They reached out to her while Lewis was in the NICU offering support, resources and providing breakfast and lunch items for parents of premature babies in hospital. In non-COVID times they meet with parents and run groups, events and other services.
IN OTHER NEWS
To thank Life's Little Treasures Foundation for their support the Delalande family will head Team Lewis in the organisation's annual Walk for Prems event on October 24, which will be a virtual walk in Victoria, to raise awareness of the 48,000 babies born early in Australia every year and funds for the organisation to keep doing their work.
"We will be doing the virtual walk for Team Lewis and trying to get people involved whether they be in Ballarat or Melbourne, wherever our friends and family are," Ms Delalande said.
"I had seen their walk in Ballarat before through social media but I didn't know their name - it's something you learn when you have a premature baby. They do a lot for the parents in the NICU and even more so during non-COVID times."
Our team of local journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the Ballarat community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: