How Sunderland family coped as coronavirus kept them apart from premature baby born weighing just 1lb 6oz

A Sunderland family received video updates on their premature baby girl, who needed heart surgery, while they couldn’t be at hospital due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 5:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th August 2020, 11:58 am

The day before national lockdown was imposed, Khloie Lilley gave birth to her daughter Pearl on March 22 – 16 weeks before her due date of July 13.

Parents Khloie and partner Jordan Monson were told Pearl, who weighed just 1lb and 6oz, had a 50% chance of survival as was rushed into Sunderland Royal Hospital’s neonatal unit – where the little fighter remained getting stronger for the next four months.

Pearl, who is now thriving at home with her family in Castletown, needed heart surgery and laser eye surgery due to complications along the way.

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Parents Khloie Lilley and Jordan Monson with son Archie, seven, and baby Pearl. Inset: Pearl in hospital after she was born 16 weeks premature.
Parents Khloie Lilley and Jordan Monson with son Archie, seven, and baby Pearl. Inset: Pearl in hospital after she was born 16 weeks premature.

And a worldwide pandemic and national lockdown meant her doting parents weren’t able to always be by her side.

“I gave birth on Mother’s Day, one day before the lockdown,” said Khloie. "We could only go an visitor her one at a time and my son, Archie, wasn’t able to visit his little sister at all.

"It was really hard not being able to touch her but we just had to deal with it.

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Archie and Pearl

"She’s been through so much. She had heart surgery at just two and a half weeks old – I just can’t believe how far she has come.

“Pearl is back home now and she is doing amazing. She’s putting on weight like she should be, she’s just thriving.”

New technology at the hospital called vCreate, introduced thanks to Teesside charity Leo’s, means families can now receive video updates in an innovative way to tackle separation anxiety and reassure parents of their baby’s progress and wellbeing.

“We were the first parents to use the vCreate and it’s really helped us through our journey – we were sent videos of her progress,” said Khloie, who is also mum to seven-year-old Archie.

Mother Khloie Lilley with baby Pearl Monson who was born 16 weeks premature

"It really helped us while we weren’t there and see that she was getting stronger. It’s been a long road but we’re finally getting there.

"Archie never got to visit her in the hospital and that's been hard for him so having the videos have made a big difference.”

Sunderland Royal is one of a number of hospitals in the North East to have to equipment donated by charity Leo’s, which was set up by Lottie King in memory of her son.

Lottie said: “We are funding vCreate at four hospitals in the North East at a cost of £15,000 a year and we’re delighted that Sunderland Royal Hospital is one of them. Helping families to stay connected with their little ones if they are unable to go to the Neonatal Unit is very important and supports their mental health.”

Neonatal Senior Sister Kristina Simmons added: “Watching the videos provides immediate reassurance and comfort and, in the long term, the videos will provide families with lasting memories.

“The feedback we have had so far has been really positive; families are over the moon and say it makes a huge difference to be able to see how the babies are progressing when they can’t be there in person.”

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