A tiny baby born at just 23 weeks, whose hand was the same size as her dad's fingernail, is now at home and thriving after 70 days on life-support.
Elsie Hampson, now 10-months-old, was born weighing just 1lb 1oz after arriving 17 weeks early at the Royal Oldham Hospital, Greater Manchester on June 17 last year.
During her pregnancy, mum, Katie Hampson, 27, suffered from heavy bleeding from eight weeks, which was later diagnosed as subchorionic hematoma, bleeding which occurs due to blood accumulating between the uterine wall and the outer foetal membrane.
While many subchorionic bleeds resolve on their own, Ms Hampson's bleeding continued for 15 weeks until her daughter's premature birth at 23 weeks.
Doctors could do little to help as they were concerned administering medication before her 16th week of pregnancy would affect her placenta and pose a risk to the baby.
When Elsie arrived premature, doctors told Ms Hampson and her and partner, Rob, 32, a builder, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, that their daughter had a one in four chance of survival.
But after 70 days in hospital, she now weighs a healthier 13lbs 6oz and is thriving at home.
“It was horrific because I just didn’t know if I was going to lose Elsie or not," Ms Hampson explains.
“I was living with the unknown so I just couldn’t relax or enjoy my pregnancy and even in hospital there was no guarantee she would survive.
“After I pushed her out, I sat on the bed and looked at her and then was uncontrollably sick.
“It was the shock and the worry as we were told she had just a 25% chance of survival.
“Her body was the size of Rob’s hand and that photo of her hand against her dad’s hand doesn’t even show how small she was - her little hand was no bigger than his fingernail.
“She was so tiny but perfectly formed with her little eyelashes, fingernails and toenails. She was like a little doll.
“Not even the doctors or nurses had hopes that she would survive but she’s a little fighter - we're so proud of her.”
The couple, who also have children Madison, 12, Mr Hampson's daughter from a previous relationship, and Poppy, seven - found out they were expecting their second child together in February 2021.
"We were delighted when we found out we were having another baby," Ms Hampson, a full-time mum, explains.
"Rob and I couldn't wait to expand our family and give Poppy and Madison a little sibling."
But just a few weeks into her pregnancy, Ms Hampson began to bleed heavily.
Having been diagnosed with subchorionic hematoma and consultants scanned and monitored her during weekly appointments at Rochdale Infirmary.
The risk of having Elsie prematurely was briefly raised during consultations, but Ms Hampson remained hopeful the subchorionic bleeds would resolve themselves, as they do for many women.
But the bleeding did not stop and at 22 weeks, she was admitted to hospital where she went into labour.
"When the bleeding didn't stop, I couldn't help but panic," she explains. "I thought it would be OK, but it just seemed to get worse - and I worried our baby wouldn't make it."
Watch: Doctors put premature baby into sandwich bag to keep her warm
The labour was complicated by the mum-to-be experiencing a placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before birth.
After Elsie’s birth, the couple were unable to hold their newborn as she was taken straight to NICU and hooked up to a ventilator.
"Her skin was practically see-through, and she was so small," her mum explains.
"It wasn’t how it should have been. It wasn’t like having a newborn baby – some people didn’t even say congratulations because they felt they shouldn’t have been congratulating me on having her so early.
"I was just praying and hoping for the best."
The couple describe Elsie's next few weeks in NICU as a "stormy ride".
"We just didn't know if she was going to pull through," Ms Hampson says.
"A nurse even said to me that we had both gone through one of the most traumatic experiences she's ever seen on the unit."
Elsie was kept in the NICU on a ventilator for nearly 70 days, but on 30th October 2021 - nearly five months after she was born - Elsie had gained enough strength to be taken home for the first time.
"It was so lovely to welcome her home, but it was scary because for so many months, we relied on nurses and doctors," Ms Hampson says of the moment.
"They were our comfort blanket and support system."
The couple remain grateful to the staff at the hospital who they credit for helping to save their daughter's life.
"They [the staff] are real life angels," Ms Hampson adds.
“If it weren’t for them, Elsie wouldn’t be here.
“They should be recognised for the amazing job that they do. They saved my baby’s life.”
Additional reporting SWNS.