Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Baby Isabelle's fight for life

Mathoura parents Kelly and Warren Barnett's daughter Isabelle has been transferred to Deniliquin Hopsital from Melbourne after being born in October. She was 107 days premature.

SHAUN CONNOR January 18, 2013 4:59am

Isabelle Jane Barnett with her mother Kelly.


It’s safe to say it has been a tough three months for Mathoura couple Kelly and Warren Barnett.

The couple’s daughter, Isabelle Jane Barnett, was born at 5.25pm on October 11 last year — 107 days before her due date.

Isabelle spent 97 days at the Mercy Hospital for Women in Melbourne, before being airlifted back to Deniliquin Hospital on Tuesday.

The Barnetts, who have two other children — Georgia, 6, and James, 4 — never thought they would see the day when Isabelle would return home.

‘‘It’s probably only over the last two weeks that she’s started to resemble being like a little baby,’’ Kelly said.

‘‘I don’t know at what point I realised we would actually take her home. In the first six weeks you could only imagine she’d ever get to the stage where she’d be well enough to take home.’’

Born weighing 727g, Isabelle lost 59g in her first week. She now weighs 2.5kg.

For the first 10 days of her life she was delivered I.V fluids before being introduced to expressed breast milk.

She has spent 99 days on some form of respiratory support and within one month of being born she had already undergone heart surgery.

‘‘Initially I was surprised they actually got her ventilated because she was so small,’’ Kelly said.

‘‘She was delivered breech (feet first), she had the [umbilical] cord around her neck and there was a knot in the cord, so you could say she had quite a dramatic birth.

‘‘They had her established quite well but when we got to the third night she managed to dislodge her tube and she had to be given cardiac compressions for about half an hour.

‘‘They had four attempts to re-intubate her before they actually got the tube successfully down.’’

Because of the chest compressions Isabelle developed a pneumothorax (collapsed lung), and the specialist doctor told the couple that there was a chance she might not pull through.

‘‘But then she (Isabelle) rallied on and just took off again,’’ Kelly said.

‘‘A few weeks later she had to go back onto the ventilator because she had what is commonly referred to as ‘holes in the heart’.

‘‘We ended up having to do heart surgery on her on November 9, just a couple days short of a month old.’’

In her time at the Mercy Hospital, Isabelle also received four shots of adrenaline and had a blood transfusion, as well as going through countless cycles of antibiotics.

Kelly stayed in Melbourne with Isabelle almost the entire time, making just ‘‘four or five’’ trips home.

‘‘I sort of relocated down there so I could help with the nursing care and later on with the feeding, once she started getting bigger.’’

Kelly said although she wasn’t ‘‘feeling right’’, she never dreamed Isabelle would be born premature.

She praised Deniliquin’s Dr Ian Dumbrell for his efforts and quick thinking around the time of Isabelle’s birth.

‘‘We had an inkling she’d be early but not that early. I’d been unwell for about seven weeks before I had her and we seen the specialist over in Shepparton and he sort of thought she’d come early.

‘‘I was getting increasingly unwell so I came back to the doctor I was seeing in Deniliquin, which was Dr Dumbrell.

‘‘Because we live half an hour out of town he was concerned that if something was to go wrong, we would have to get into town; and also a baby at that sort of prematurity would have a lower risk of survival so if it was born here it would have to be transferred.

‘‘He made a few phone calls that day and I ended up getting airlifted to Melbourne that afternoon with the hope that I’d spend at least a month in hospital.’’

But Isabelle was born three days later, just 25 weeks into Kelly’s pregnancy.

‘‘At 25 weeks she had about a 50 per cent chance of survival,’’ Kelly said.

‘‘The more premature they are the lower their chance of survival but it also increases the risk of other things not going right. There are high instances of cerebral palsy, deafness and eye problems.’’


Fortunately, Isabelle has defied the odds and is very healthy for a baby born so early.

She is currently on a low-flow oxygen delivery system and is expected to be so for another three months.

‘‘She’s still on low-flow oxygen and she’ll go home on that,’’ Kelly said.

‘‘She’s also got what’s referred to as chronic lung disorder, which is basically because she needs a lot of respiratory support and her lungs get quite congested.

‘‘The oxygen is to support her to grow and for that lung tissue to repair.

Kelly said the prognosis is that by the time she is two, Isabelle’s health will have caught up to other children of the same age.

She is expected to be released from Deniliquin Hospital within the next week.

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