Maija Elke Pettitt became one of only around 20-30% of babies to survive such an extremely premature birth when she was born 23 weeks into her mum’s pregnancy six years ago
A “miracle baby” who spent 190 days in hospital after being born, and weighed less than a small bag of sugar, can now eat, speak and even conjure up stories.
Maija Elke Pettitt became one of only around 20-30% of babies to survive such an extremely premature birth when she was born 23 weeks into her mum’s pregnancy six years ago.
Maija has quadriplegia, triple X syndrome and global developmental delay, meaning that she couldn’t open her eyes when she was born, struggled to eat solids and was mute until recently.
Her mum, Hackney-based Elke Pettitt, 46, can barely believe the progress the youngster has made, My London reports.
“She couldn’t even open her eyes when she was born,” said Maija’s mum Elke, who added, “she was so fragile and tiny, it’s just incredible how far she’s come.”
Maija had a twin, a boy born one week after her, who sadly only lived for 30 days.
Elke and Rawden, Maija’s dad, were not able to take their daughter home for more than 190 days, after she was born in the Royal London Hospital then transferred to Homerton, east London.
Elke said as excited as they were about it, taking Maija home was “scary,” as she was still on oxygen, being tube-fed, and needed around “ten different medications” a day.
Elke said for a long time she felt more like a nurse than a mum, and at the beginning, her daughter’s development was very slow.
At a loose end and after extensive research, when Maija was three-and-a-half her parents decided to try out a ground-breaking therapy programme in Austria called ‘NoTube’, which proved to be life-changing.
“It’s really for children to explore food as a fun thing,” said Elke, who said over the “messy” two-week course Maija slowly started grabbing food, including purees and ice cream, then put it in her mouth, and months later she was even eating solids.
“She went through a phase where she just loved Wotsits,” laughed Elke, adding, “anything pureed, with Wotsits, I think it was that mushy texture as well as something crunchy and easy to dissolve in her mouth.”
Elke said they never thought Maija would speak, but since learning to eat her speech has come on in leaps and bounds, describing how when her daughter managed to say ‘mum’ for the first time, it was “just amazing.”
Before that, all Maija’s communication was non-verbal. Elke described how she used some sign language she had picked up while “watching Mr Tumble on the iPad.”
Now she will even make up stories to tell her parents when they ask her questions.
Elke said: “She’s just a really happy person… she’s developing so much and she’s got a really funny personality, and she’s very smiley… I think that just makes other people smile as well.”
She added: “Because she’s so much joy, it has made this journey easier.”