‘Little warrior’ from Cork marks her 1st birthday

Since she was born weighing 3lbs, little Rhiannon Evans has shown fighting spirit. EMMA CONNOLLY talks to her mum, as she celebrates the little girl’s 1st birthday
‘Little warrior’ from Cork marks her 1st birthday

Jerrica Struthers with her daughter Rhiannon celebrating her first birthday at home at Mayfield, Cork.

A LITTLE Mayfield warrior has celebrated her first birthday against the odds and is following in the footsteps of all the strong women in her family.

That’s according to Jerrica Struthers, whose daughter Rhiannon showed her true fighting spirit, even before she was born prematurely weighing just 3lbs.

Jerrica, 29, had experienced challenges with what was her second pregnancy including frequent nose bleeds, and during a routine scan, it was also discovered Rhiannon had stunted growth.

Rhiannon Evans was born weighing just 3lbs.Picture Denis Minihane.
Rhiannon Evans was born weighing just 3lbs.Picture Denis Minihane.

In all, Jerrica who is also mum to seven-year-old Xander, had three anxious stays in CUMH where she was closely monitored, for several weeks at a time. During one of those stays, she also had a Harmony Test which screens for chromosome syndromes.

“We had an anxious wait for those results but everything was fine,” said Jerrica, but there was still the constant worry why her baby was so small.

An abnormality with her unborn baby’s heart was detected soon after, and plans were made for Jerrica and her partner Lee Evans to travel to the Coombe Hospital in Dublin for further tests.

Lee Evans and Jerrica Struthers and their children Xander and Rhiannon celebrating Rhiannon's first birthday.
Lee Evans and Jerrica Struthers and their children Xander and Rhiannon celebrating Rhiannon's first birthday.

“I remember the day before we were due to go, we had a scan in Cork and her heart rate decelerated. It later stabilised but doctors didn’t want to risk the journey and then, four days later, another scan showed the issue had corrected itself! We couldn’t believe it.”

But there was another scare to come.

“The very next day, a scan showed the blood flow to my placenta was deteriorating and it was starting to fail. So at that stage it was decided it was better to get her out,” said Jerrica.

Xander and Rhiannon Evans at home at Mayfield, Cork, during Rhiannon's first birthday.
Xander and Rhiannon Evans at home at Mayfield, Cork, during Rhiannon's first birthday.

Not surprisingly, at this stage the young mum admits to feeling weary and distraught.

“I remember a lovely nurse just hugging and consoling me because, even though Rhiannon was 33 weeks old, she was just the size of a 29 week old.”

A team of 30 medics helped deliver her by C-Section at 6.30pm that day, November 22 , and she weighed a tiny 3lbs.

“I just went into overdrive and tried not to get too emotional and focus on what I needed to get done,” she remembers.

Jerrica Struthers is sharing her story, so that others who have babies born premature, will have hope. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Jerrica Struthers is sharing her story, so that others who have babies born premature, will have hope. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“It felt like everything was in slow motion in the theatre but I remember how perfect she looked when she was born.”

She didn’t get to hold her, which she still describes as something that makes her sad, but Lee went with their daughter to the neo natal ward.

And Jerrica was determined to be with her as soon as possible: “I was willing myself to be able to move after the spinal tap and next morning I literally bolted out of the bed to get there, so much so that I almost fainted.

“But I remember holding her that first morning and it really was the best moment of my life,” she said.

“One of the first things I said about her was that she’s a warrior, taking after my mother, my aunts and my grandmother Hannah, who never let anything get them down.”

While Rhiannon was the smallest baby in the NICU at the time she was admitted, she was the only one who didn’t need help with breathing. Typically, premature babies get to go home around their due date, but there is nothing typical about Rhiannon!

Lee Evans and his daughter Rhiannon.
Lee Evans and his daughter Rhiannon.

“She beat the statistics. Her due date was January 6 and she got to come home on December 20,” said her proud mum.

But there was one more scare to overcome:

“When we were being discharged, a test showed that she’d had a brain haemorrhage some time previously. We were told that there wasn’t any treatment for it at that point, so we were still able to go home but we were a bit frightened naturally.

“It was still the best Christmas present we could ever have imagined.”

Almost a year on, and Rhiannon is meeting all her developmental milestones and is ‘ruling the house’, says Jerrica.

“She’s an absolute diva! She’s the princess of the house and rules the place — taking the cat’s treats and looking for her brother’s Nintendo Switch! But these are moments that at one point we didn’t think we’d see so we’re so grateful for them all.”

Jerrica also thanked WoW! for recently highlighting World Prematurity Day.

“It’s so important that we get positive stories like this out there. When we were going through our ordeal we were inundated with stories of babies who beat the odds, which helped us. Now, hopefully, our story will do the same for others.”

She beat the statistics. Her due date was January 6 and she got to come home on December 20.

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