But when Lisa Grady first spoke to her newborn son Alfie, his tiny eyes opened and her heart melted.
Alfie, who arrived 14 weeks early, had been rushed to the special care baby unit at the Simpson’s maternity centre, where his life was saved after under-going a series of blood transfusions.
Now his mum has given her backing to a summer appeal reminding people who give blood regularly to donate before they go on holiday.
When she gave birth in August 2010, Ms Grady, 33, had already been in hospital for three weeks as doctors tried to keep her from going into labour early. She was suffering from placenta previa, in which the placenta covers the entrance from the womb to the cervix, and had been bleeding.
After her contractions started, she was transferred to a private room at Simpson’s, but could never have expected her son to arrive as quickly as he did.
“I’d gone to the toilet one morning, thinking that I needed to go to the loo, and I thought ‘I’m going to have a feel’ and I felt his head,” she said.
“I stood up and pulled the emergency cord and everyone came rushing in, but by the time they got there, he was in my hands. He was like a very small doll, and he was blue. He fitted into my hands.
“It was literally a case of feeling his head, pulling the emergency cord, and he was there.”
Doctors immediately tried to warm Alfie up before he was raced to the special care baby unit, where Ms Grady and her partner John Hook were taken to see him.
She said: “There were lots of nurses, lots of people running about, and it was really quite scary, but the nurses in there were second to none, I can’t thank them enough.
“It was amazing seeing him, words can’t describe it. I’d obviously seen him after I’d given birth but when I saw him again, he just looked like a little soul.
“I wasn’t sure at the time what was going to happen and I didn’t think I was even going to be able to touch him. When they said we could touch his wee feet, it was amazing, there were a few tears. His arms weren’t even the width of my index finger.
“Everything was there and perfect, but so small – he had nails and hair. He opened his eyes when he heard my voice.”
So fragile was Alfie, his parents had no idea if he would survive.
Ms Grady said: “His heart rate was dropping quite a lot and he was showing signs of other problems so they had to take blood for tests, and because he was so small, he couldn’t reproduce his own blood quickly enough.
“But the minute he was given a transfusion, every time he had one it was like a different child, he was so alert.”
Alfie remained in hospital for three months before being allowed to move to the family home in Gilmerton. Since then he has thrived, and is now a healthy 21-month-old.
Ms Grady said: “He’s huge now, he can count to ten, which is a bit scary, and he can count from ten backwards, I don’t know whose blood he got but it’s not my blood that’s given him that.”
She said she was keen to support the Scottish National Blood Transfusion’s Service summer appeal.
“I just want to say keep up the good work, every tiny baby in there will need blood at some point,” she said.
GIVE A LITTLE LOVE
IT is Blood Donor Week and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service is using the occasion to launch its summer campaign, Give Before You Go.
It aims to build supplies in advance of a busy period, urging people to donate before going on holiday, with a 20 per cent drop seen at this time of year.
Transfusion Service spokesman Vincent Mooney said: “Once a donor comes along for the first time, we know their blood group, so we can contact them when we need to.
“This will be particularly important when supplies of a specific blood group are lower than we’d like, which could occur during the summer period. This summer will be particularly challenging for the blood service, with major events such as the Diamond Jubilee, Olympics and Euro 2012 competing for time to attend donation sessions. Even when blood supplies are adequate, unpredictable shortages in specific blood groups can occur.”
To find out where your nearest donation session is, call 0845 90 90 999 or visit www.scotblood.co.uk