Mum in coma when son was born celebrates his first birthday
A Victorian mum, who spent more than three months in a coma after contracting the flu while eight months pregnant, has celebrated her son's miracle first birthday this week.
Sarah Hawthorn, 34, said she did not think she would make it to her son Axle's milestone. Neither did her doctors, or her family.
Her blond-haired boy was born by emergency C-section while Sarah was put in an induced coma after complications from the flu during last year's horror season.
"It's Axle's birthday and it's my anniversary, so it's quite exciting that I'm here to celebrate with my little baby," Sarah said.
"His first birthday, I can't believe it. It's flown."
When asked how close she came to death, Sarah said: "I think I got there a few times, if not a little bit more, so it got very close to a point where Rob was preparing my funeral."
Sarah lost more than 80 per cent of her muscle mass while in a coma, and her lung function dropped down to 25 per cent.
Doctors told her it would take years to get back to normal, but Sarah has continually defied their predictions.
Husband Rob, 38, was told that for every week of the 10 weeks Sarah spent in intensive care, she would spend four weeks on a ward.
But she was home four days before Christmas, even though it was in a wheelchair.
There are still some complications. "I can't get down on the ground, I need to use the couch to get down on the ground to play with Axle," she said.
The Hawthorn family invited the Herald Sun to their beef farm in Strathmerton, a small farming area in the Goulburn Valley about three hours' drive from Melbourne.
Hawthorn and Essendon football club scarfs hang on the living-room door.
Rob was quick to sign up the young fella to a Hawks membership before Sarah could brainwash him with her love of the Bombers.
The couple is moving on with life, and two weeks ago, bought an extra parcel of land nearby as they expand their operations.
Those types of plans had been on hold while Rob set up a makeshift home at a Quest apartment near The Alfred hospital in Prahran.
"The girls there know me pretty well now," he said.
Sarah first complained of feeling sick when she was at a regular check-up.
Busy with work and the advancing pregnancy, she had not had a flu shot.
"The first day I was sick was a Tuesday and I was there for my ultrasound, I wasn't feeling overly unwell," she said.
During the coming days, Sarah became worse, and was struggling to breathe by Saturday.
Her breath was so short, it was like she was panting as she desperately tried to get air in her lungs.
Rob took her to the Yarrawonga Hospital because it had some maternity services.
"They didn't want to know us, they said there was no doctor there and to go to the local doctor. The doctor gave Sarah an asthma puffer and a prescription for Panadeine Forte - she was really out of breath and that made no difference," Rob said.
"I had a very long phone call with that doctor about a week in."
Sarah rested on the couch, but her breathing got worse again.
At 6pm on the following Monday, Rob put his heavily pregnant wife in the car to drive to the Cobram Hospital.
Doctors there realised how ill Sarah was, and a team of four ambulances took her to the Wangaratta Hospital.
By midnight, she was in an induced coma, and at 4.36am on August 29, Axle was born by emergency caesarean section - five weeks early.
Rob saw him as he was wheeled away for care. Sarah had no idea she had a son.
A team of doctors worked throughout the day to get Sarah stable enough to be transferred to Melbourne.
An Air Ambulance flew her to The Alfred, and the nightmare of the next few months began.
Rob cannot remember how many times the hospital called him warning she may not have long left and that he needed urgently to visit.
Her condition would switch from stable to critical and back to stable.
After six weeks in hospital, she was put on an ECMO machine, a form of life support that does the work of the heart and lungs when they are failing.
Rob was torn between visiting Sarah at The Alfred and Axle, who was still receiving care in Wangaratta.
Nurses at Wangaratta Hospital sent him photographs and updates on Axle, as often as every three hours. He left his clothes there so that Axle would get used to his smell.
Axle was allowed to visit Sarah in intensive care when he was six weeks old. A photograph was taken of the moment because they thought it would be the only time he would see his mother alive.
"Every day was a different scenario, she was a little better and then a lot worse," Rob said.
"One time when I asked the doctor what her chances were, he said, 'she's breathing now'."
This article appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.