Back in 2007 for Jessica Nelson’s 13th Birthday she wanted to look round the ward where she spent the first few months of her life after being born prematurely.
At Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) she met a then five-month old Harrison Bibby who was born at just 26 weeks weighing a tiny 1lb 4oz.
They were similar statistics to herself, being born at 28 weeks and weighed in at just 1lb 14oz.
Harrison spent his first 12 weeks of life on a ventilator, had to undergo surgery and used oxygen cylinders for 14 months. He was only allowed home at six months old and weighed only 6lb.
At the time The Gazette covered the story and said Jessica was a shining example of how you can bounce back from a tough start in life.
Now, 12 years later, the pair have met up again after Harrison’s mum Donna managed to track down a now 25-year-old Jessica.
Donna, who lives with husband Ian and Harrison in Cleveleys said it was quite difficult to get in touch at first due to her not being on social media.
She said: “ We always said when Harrison turned 13 we wanted to get in touch with Jessica because she was the same age when she visited the SCBU.
“Because I’m not on social media it was difficult but I managed to find her on Facebook and my sister messaged her for me.
“A few weeks later I get a phone call on a Friday evening from someone asking me ‘is that Harrison’s mum?’ and I thought it was someone from the school at first but then it clicked straightaway that it was Jessica.”
Donna said she and Jessica spoke for a while about how she and Harrison had been getting on and agreed to meet up.
It took some time due to Jessica now working at the hospital she was born in as a health care practitioner on the diabetes ward, mainly on night shifts.
But Jessica managed to visit Harrison at his home to meet up after last seeing him at the SCBU in January 2007.
Jessica, who lives in Grange Park with her parents Christine and Ricky, said: “It was a bit surreal to get this message off Facebook after so long. It’s really strange but wonderful at the same time.
“When I finally got talking to Donna, she explained about Harrison’s condition but I was so excited to meet him again after so long.
“My mum still has the original Gazette article and we always look over it every so often whenever we have a clear out.”
Ian and Donna’s other son Cameron was born in October 2005 prematurely but died at 14 weeks old.
There is a photo of Cameron in the front room of their Cleveleys home.
Donna said: “They have both had rough starts to life but they have managed to go down to different paths and it’s lovely to see how Jessica has got on with her life.”
Harrison, who is non-verbal, has cerebral palsy and has gone to Red Marsh Special School in Thornton since he was two-years-old.
Donna said: “He loves going to school and I even think he gets fed up of Ian and me during the school holidays.
“Without Red Marsh and their input I don’t think we would have coped. Their pastoral care is brilliant and Ian and myself can’t thank them enough.”
“Harrison enjoys swimming and music and he usually has his headphones on dancing with his frame.
“It’s usually Eminem but he is into the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses . He loves The Jam as well.”
Harrison is a full-time wheelchair user but is learning to walk using his frames.
Donna said: “I remember speaking to Christine at the time and her experience of the special care unit and what to expect. You don’t think it will end well but he is living a great life.”
And it shouldn’t be 13 years until Jessica and Harrison meet again either. Donna and Jessica have swapped numbers and are hoping to catch up every few months.
The Neonatal Unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital cares for babies with a number of medical conditions. The new purpose built unit was opened in 2010.
Some babies on the unit are born prematurely, others are born with breathing difficulties or feeding problems and some have abnormalities at birth. A spokesman for the Vic said: “Whatever the problem, parents, friends and family can be assured that the Neonatal staff have met it before, have the experience to deal with it and will fully explain what is happening.”
The Neonatal Unit admits approximately 350 babies each year. It has 16 cots, which are split into three areas of Intensive Care, High Dependency and Special Care.
There are an additional six Transitional Care rooms within the unit for babies that are well enough to be cared for by parents who may need care such as Intravenous antibiotics.
Each area is equipped and heated differently in accordance with the medical needs of its babies. The Unit cares only for babies with medical problems.
Those who require surgery are then transferred to a regional unit, which is usually St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, or for babies with more complicated heart conditions, Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool.