A little girl from Broadstairs who beat the odds after being given a 20% chance of survival will be one of the guests at a special Christmas party in Thanet.
Alana Webb, now four-years-old, was born at 23 weeks gestation, weighing a tiny 1lb 3oz, on July 31, 2013.
She faced major hurdles in the first few months of life and was, at the time, one of the smallest babies ever to be operated on.
Mum Gemma Webb, who runs the Kent Surf School at Viking Bay with husband Andy, said: “She literally would have fitted in my hand, her limbs no wider or longer than my little finger, her skin was transparent. She is our little miracle!”
Alana was suffering from necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a serious illness in which tissues in the intestine become inflamed and start to die. This can lead to a perforation developing, which allows the contents of the intestine to leak into the tummy. This can cause a very dangerous infection.
In Alana’s case there was a perforation and she was transferred to Brighton hospital for life-saving surgery when she was just 19 days old.
Gemma, who is also mum to two-year-old Betsy, said: “It was horrendous. We were initially told that she was one of the smallest babies ever operated on and that she would likely not survive. However, there was no option, without surgery she wouldn’t survive either.
“She pulled through and ended up with a stoma due to a perforated bowel.”
Gemma stayed in Brighton’s Ronald McDonald House for four months while Alana continued her battle for life.
The little one suffered collapsed lungs, severe infections and had more than 20 blood transfusions but on Christmas Eve 2013 she was finally transferred to the special care baby unit at Margate’s QEQM.
Gemma, 36, said: “She basically overcame so many hurdles and constantly proved statistics wrong. I got to bring her ‘home’ to Margate Special Care Baby Unit at QEQM on Christmas Eve 2013, before finally bringing her properly home, on oxygen, on January 11, 2014.
“Alana’s journey was incredible. We were told babies like her were unlikely to live a ‘normal’ life, with just 14% of babies living with no issues after such a premature birth.
“She is definitely one of the lucky ones.”
Alana has experienced a speech delay and been diagnosed with Selective Mutism – which is a phobia of talking to people outside of her comfort zone or in new situations. But at home she has been chatting away for the last six months and is growing in confidence.
Gemma said: “Alana is such a happy little girl. She can be shy around people she doesn’t know but is really caring. She can also be a bit of a pickle but if she was not as determined as she is, then she wouldn’t be here now, it’s part of her character.”
Alana is also a massive Disney fan. Her first Disney toys were bought by Gemma to mark milestones in her recovery.
Gemma said: “Alana loves Disney. She got her very first Disney character, a Minnie Mouse, for coming off the ventilator – she was ventilated solidly for 8 weeks – and her second Disney character for overcoming her two collapsed lungs. I didn’t think she would pull through.
“For such a little girl she can name so many Disney characters and loves Rapunzel, Belle and Moana!”
Alana will be one of the youngsters at the Princess World and The Isle of Thanet News Special Stars at Christmas party.
The magical Christmas party with princesses and other fantastic characters will be for Thanet boys and girls who face extra challenges in life.
The team at Princess World, based at Westwood Business Park, will host the character-filled Christmas party, with gifts for the children, food and drink, games and a special visit from Santa.
Princess World UK will also carry out a present run on Christmas Eve to the children’s Rainbow Ward at Margate’s QEQM Hospital.
Nominate a special child
We are asking you to nominate a youngster – boys and girls – who you think deserves this treat. Just tell us their name, age and address, along with your contact details and a summary in 250 words or less saying why you have nominated them.
Entries to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on December 1.
The party will be held on Thursday, December 21 – times to be arranged.
We are also asking for donations of small gifts for children and young people which will be given to our party-goers and the youngsters who will be spending their Christmas in Rainbow Ward.
Donations can be taken to at Princess World, Westwood Business Park, Strasbourg Street, Margate
CT9 4JJ. Call 01843 309602.