Health Stories

Hero Henry: My Tiny Boy Saved My Life

At 34 weeks pregnant, Tina’s health rapidly declined
  • Tina Lee, 39, from Yeppoon, Qld has cystic fibrosis (CF)
  • When she and her partner fell pregnant in 2023, they were over the moon
  • At 34 weeks along, Tina’s health rapidly declined

Here Tina tells her story in her own words.

Watching as a grainy image of our baby appeared on the sonographer’s screen, my eyes filled with tears.

My partner Tom and I were ecstatic to see our bub at our 13-week scan.

‘We did it,’ Tom beamed.

Born with cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder affecting the lungs and other organs, at 18 I was told by doctors that I’d never become a mum.

It broke my heart, but I was optimistic that one day with medical advancements, my luck might change.

So at 22 I froze my eggs, with the hope of becoming a mum one day.

Aged 30, I underwent a double lung transplant after my condition caused mine to shut down.

Afterwards, my specialist believed I’d be fit enough to carry a baby, but would need to be closely monitored during pregnancy in case anything changed.

However, I struggled to find Mr Right. But when I was 37, I met Tom at a cafe. Sparks flew and we quickly fell in love. Not wanting to hide anything from him, I was honest about my mission to become a mum from the start.

‘I’d love kids too,’ he said.

Though we’d only been together for a few months, we knew we didn’t have time to waste. Plus Tom had such a kind and gentle nature, I had no doubt he’d make a wonderful dad.

After genetic testing ruled out any chance of CF being passed on to our baby, we had five healthy embryos created through IVF, using my eggs and Tom’s sperm.

And in February 2023, our first embryo was transferred. Please let it work, I prayed.

Two weeks later, our fertility doctor called with good news.

‘You’re pregnant,’ he revealed.

Tina Lee pregnant
Pregnant – and over the moon! (Credit: Supplied.)

‘We named him Henry.’

Tom and I were over the moon. And at our 13 week scan, we found out we were having a boy.

By my second trimester, we’d come up with a name for our baby – Henry.

Despite my condition, my pregnancy was fairly smooth. I was to be induced at 37 weeks to mitigate any complications.

But during a routine check-up at the hospital in October, at 34 weeks along, I suddenly felt breathless. Then everything went black.

Coming to, I was surrounded by doctors, who revealed I’d collapsed due to lack of oxygen. Horrifyingly, my body had begun rejecting my lungs, which doctors believed was brought on by being pregnant.

‘We need to deliver him early,’ they warned, as they wanted to administer antibiotics that weren’t safe during pregnancy.

I phoned Tom at home, and he rushed over in time to see our boy enter the world via emergency C-section, weighing just 2.2 kilos.

Tina Lee Baby Henry
My first cuddle with Henry (Credit: Supplied.)

‘‘Please don’t give up,’ Tom begged.’

I only saw a glimpse of Henry’s chocolate curls before he was whisked away to the NICU. While I recovered, Tom went to be with our bub.

The following day, I was wheeled in to see our baby boy. As we were both hooked up to tubes, we could only share a quick cuddle, but it was magical.

Then, three days after giving birth, my health rapidly deteriorated again.

Gasping for air, it felt like I was drowning.

Tests revealed my lung function had dropped to just 15 per cent.

There was nothing more doctors could do for me except transfer me to the Prince Charles Hospital, where I’d need to wait for another lung transplant.

But with the average wait time for a donor being five months, I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I could already feel myself dying.

Saying goodbye to five-day-old Henry was gut-wrenching.

‘Dad has enough love for two people. Mummy will be watching you from a window in the sky,’ I sobbed, giving him one final kiss.

Tom split his time between me and Henry. ‘Please don’t give up,’ he begged, as I prepared my will.

‘I’m not giving up, but my body is,’ I cried.

Two days later, doctors had an idea. They’d read an international report about an overseas lung transplant patient who had seen improvements after taking tocilizumab, a drug used to treat people with rheumatoid arthritis.

There were no other options, and I was willing to try anything. So I had my first dose two days later.

The next day, Tom brought Henry to see me.

Holding my son in my arms, I knew I needed to fight to see him grow up. You need your mum, and I need my little boy, I wept.

With a fire in my belly, I vowed to get better.

Incredibly, within 48 hours, my lung capacity had increased by about 10 per cent, and soon I was able to take steps around my hospital room.

Tina Lee family
Henry, me and Tom (Credit: Supplied.)

And just over a week later, I was allowed to return to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital to be closer to Henry. I stayed at the hospital’s Ronald McDonald housing with around the clock care.

After four weeks, both Henry and I were given the all-clear to be discharged.

Tina Lee Baby Henry
Me and our gorgeous boy (Credit: Supplied.)

Back home, it was a struggle to adjust to life as a new mum after being so close to death. But with Tom by my side, I was able to get through the sleepless nights.

Now four months old, Henry loves bath time and is curious about everything – from ceiling fans to people’s faces.

Tina Lee Baby Henry
Henry at three months (Credit: Supplied.)

‘He’s my guiding light.’

Although I still may need another transplant in the future, my lung function is back up to 47 per cent.

While I’m so grateful for the doctors’ quick thinking, I have no doubt our boy had a hand in saving my life.

Without his presence, I’m not sure I would have had the strength to keep fighting.

He’s my guiding light.

To help Tina and her family, you can donate to their GoFundMe.

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