He may be small, but he is mighty! Meet Perth’s tiny premmie baby, Austin Buttle.
Born 17 weeks premature and weighing just 660 grams – that’s little more than a can of soup – little Austin is defying the odds and amazing the medical team working hard to keep him alive.
Austin’s unexpected birth, uphill health battle and constant fight to survive is nothing short of incredible. Come meet this tiny battler and his brave parents who are willing him on, every step of the way.
UPDATE 6/10/17: It is with heavy hearts that Mum Central shares the devastating news that Austin has since lost his battle for life. We’re heartbroken for his parents, Robin and Kate. Please keep them – and Austin – in your thoughts.
Cord prolapse at 23 weeks
At 23 weeks pregnant, 30-year-old Kate McFarlane was enjoying the cruisey second trimester. Kate’s fiance, Robin Buttle, was in America for the week as Kate prepared for their babymoon to Bali.
Little Austin had other ideas.
Although Kate had experienced pains and bleeding for a week, midwives twice assured her everything was fine.
“They couldn’t explain the bleeding and told me the pains were just the tightening of the stomach,” Kate tells Mum Central. And thus, Kate thought nothing of it.
Later that week, as Kate headed to the airport to collect Robin, her waters broke. Being just 23 weeks pregnant, Kate assumed she had just wet herself (as you do).
Turns out, it wasn’t just wee. The next morning a very stunned Kate woke up to find the umbilical cord coming out.
“I quickly pushed it back in and went to Armadale hospital,” Kate explains. On arrival Kate and Robin were relieved to hear their son’s heartbeat. But their baby boy would have to come out a lot sooner than anyone expected.
Born without pulse
Austin Buttle was born via caesarean section at 2.48pm on Sunday 16, July 2017, 17 weeks before his 8 November due date. He weighed 660 grams and was barely 29 centimetres long, about the size of a large mango. He wasn’t breathing and was without a pulse.
Kate admits that the whole experience was a little surreal to say the least.
“I guess I was preparing myself to wake to a baby that had not made it,” Kate admits.
It took four shots of adrenaline to revive the little fighter. He was then transferred by NETS to King Edward Memorial Hospital, where he’ll stay until he’s big enough to go home.
Life in the NICU
We all have a similar notion of what life with a newborn baby will be like. No one expects to watch their son grow from an incubator. No one expects to have to wait a week to hold their newborn for the first time.
But this is a reality for many couples, including Kate and Robin. During those first few weeks, Kate was only able to hold Austin twice. New dad Robin only held his son once.
“I remember thinking he could break, he was so tiny and fragile,” Kate says.
While an estimated one in 10 babies will be born prematurely (before 37 weeks gestation), only 0.8 per cent of babies are born between 20-27 weeks.
According to L’il Aussie Prem Foundation, the survival rate for an infant born at 23 weeks, with the assistance of the neonatal intensive care unit, sits around 30 per cent but this depends on a number of factors.
But little Austin isn’t giving up without a fight. He has battled an infection, was on “jet ventilation” for six weeks and is now on his third dose of steroids. He has been diagnosed with chronic lung disease and may require an oxygen tank when he does get to come home. Although there is a chance of disabilities, recent brain scans have so far come back clear.
“The hardest thing is not having him here”
Most new mums are busy with sleepless nights and showerless days, but Kate’s routine is a little different. She expresses milk for Austin every three hours and travels the one hour journey to the hospital every day to be at Austin’s side. She then returns home at night and waits for the next day, where she can be with her son again.
“The hardest thing is not having him here,” Kate tells us. She has found support through Facebook groups and a medical staff member who visits her every few days.
“It has been a very bizarre experience. The journey has been trying, long, emotional, yet rewarding. I was pretty naive to the whole NICU world beforehand.”
Bringing Austin home
11 weeks after his unexpected arrival, Austin has tripled his birth weight. He now weighs just over 2 kilograms and is 39.5 centimetres.
“We celebrate every week, any weight gain, even lowered oxygen levels,” Kate tells Mum Central. “Watching him grow is amazing,”
But he still has a long way to go. Due to his chronic lung disease, little Austin will probably remain in NICU four or so weeks past his due date.
However, with every passing day, every small milestone he reaches and every gram he adds to his body, Austin is one step closer to going home.
“Our goal is to get him home by Christmas,” Kate tells us. “To starting our life as a little family.”
We wish Kate, Robin and little Austin the best in making this goal a reality and thank you for letting us share your amazing story so far. Check out this touching tribute to the amazing work of neonatal nurses with premature babies.