Cringila parents bring Soumaya home at last

Fatima Alchaar holds her daughter, Soumaya, as proud father Ray looks on. Pictures: ADAM McLEAN

Fatima Alchaar holds her daughter, Soumaya, as proud father Ray looks on. Pictures: ADAM McLEAN

Cringila's Soumaya Alchaar weighed just over one kilogram when she came into the world, 11 weeks early, on December 16 last year.

The last three months have brought highs and lows for her parents Fatima and Ray, but last week was definitely the highlight when they were finally able to bring their baby girl home weighing a healthy 3.5 kilograms.

The couple will take part in The Wave FM Great Illawarra Walk next weekend to help raise funds for Wollongong Hospital's neonatal ward, where Soumaya spent many weeks.

"I'd had a good pregnancy but when I was 28-weeks pregnant I was out shopping when my waters broke," Mrs Alchaar said.

"I went straight to Wollongong Hospital and was transported to Liverpool Hospital where a week later Soumaya was born, 11 weeks premature.

Fatima Alchaar with baby Soumaya, who was born 11 weeks premature.

Fatima Alchaar with baby Soumaya, who was born 11 weeks premature.

"She was put straight into the incubator and was given oxygen and cannulas and antibiotics. We couldn't even hold her for a week - it was heartbreaking."

Soumaya was transferred to Wollongong Hospital's neonatal ward in late December with doctors telling the Alchaars to expect the "neonatal dance" - one step forward, one step back - before she could go home.

"There were times when she'd be getting better, and then there'd be setbacks, but at least we knew what to expect," Mr Alchaar said.

While there are still challenges to overcome - Soumaya has a hole in her heart and chronic lung disease - the couple said the support of the staff at the neonatal ward has helped them through this difficult time.

They hope the Illawarra community supports the Great Illawarra Walk which will raise funds for high-tech baby monitors for the ward.

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District director of paediatrics Dr Susie Piper said around 10 monitors, worth $4000 each, were needed.

"The monitors we have work fine but they are 10 years old - monitor technology has developed over that time and these new monitors are specifically designed for newborn babies," Dr Piper said.

"They give more accurate readings with less false alarms, and they require just one lead attached to the baby rather than three or four."

For Mrs Alchaar, who was able to trial one of the new monitors, that meant she was better able to wrap and cuddle Soumaya.

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