ARDROSSAN woman Samantha Adkins is preparing to spend the festive season with her family this year - including her very own Christmas miracle.

Among those celebrating with her will be little baby Everly Annie - who Sam says "would not be here" if it wasn't for the staff at the neonatal unit at Crosshouse Hospital.

Everly was due to arrive into the world on July 8 this year - but made an unscheduled entrance more than two months premature, on April 23.

Sam - who gave birth just four days before her 30th birthday - says doctors think Evelyn's early arrival may have been because she was squeezing her own umbilical cord, causing her heart rate to slow down - something medics had never seen before.

Everly's arrival more than 11 weeks early brought with it a whole series of complications, too. 

She was born weighing just 2lb 2oz and with congenital CMV - a common virus that is usually harmless but poses a much greater risk to babies, and can cause hearing and sight loss. 

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Everly in hospital after she was born.

As she sat at home with her daughter, who now weighs a much healthier 13lb, Sam, now a mum to three beautiful girls, told the Herald just how challenging Everly's first days and weeks were.

"For the first week of her life I was told daily that she’s not going to make it through the night," Sam said..

“The fact that she is home now is incredible.”

Such were the complications following her birth that Everly had to have 13 platelet transfusions - a lifesaving procedure carried out to prevent bleeding or stop ongoing bleeding - before she was eight days old.

“It was quite traumatic but she’s here and she’s home," Sam said. "Thankfully she is thriving at home."

“It was very difficult because I had two children at home who obviously needed me.

“But at the same time my baby was sitting there fighting for her life.”

In the end, Everly spent 66 days in the hospital's neonatal unit - and Sam says the care she received during that time was second to none.

“To begin with, just before she was born, they got a couple of the neo-natal team to come round and talk through my expectations," she recalled.

“They made me aware that she was going to be born, they were going to work on her, that she might need resuscitated, that they’d let me know as soon as they know what’s happening, and  that I’d not be able to see her before she gets taken away - it would just be a case of stabilising her and getting her round to the unit.

“Thankfully she did start to breathe on her own – which is a miracle in itself. 

“I got a quick peek at her just before she got taken round to neo-natal.

“They came round right away as soon as they stabilised her, and spoke me through everything – any issues or concerns, they were right there."

And the round-the-clock care provided to Sam and her family didn't stop there.

Though the round-the-clock care Sam and the family were given did not stop there.

"They were at the end of the phone," she continued. "If you were in the ward they were constantly checking in.

“When you do go home, if your baby is still in the unit, they can send you pictures and updates during the night to let you know how things are going.

“Even now, to this day, they are still so supportive of everything.

"If you’ve got any questions you can still phone the unit and check in.”

Sam has already given something back to the unit by completing the Kiltwalk fund-raiser with one of her other children - and says she plans to continue doing what she can for them in the future.

"Each and every single one them made a huge impact on our lives in there," she said.

"From being able to tell when you were having a down day, and giving all the hugs and comfort they could, to celebrating every win we had with moving forward. 

"The staff really are second to none and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Everly enjoying time with her big sisters.

"On my 30th birthday, four days after Everly was born, I didn’t feel like celebrating much - but they pulled rank and decorated the unit, made banners and a card from Everly, and even bought cake.

"They ensured me and my older girls had some time together on my birthday too by providing a side room to protect them from all the scary things going on."

Now, as Sam prepares for Everly's first Christmas, she says she's has had a lot of time to reflect on how just how lucky they are.

"We’ve got a lot to thank neonatal for," she said.

"They worked tirelessly to get platelets to match, so Everly was actually healthy enough to get home.

“They put me through all the oxygen training, so that I knew when I got home I was equipped to deal with.

“No matter how much I reflect on it it’s still going to be quite harsh. It didn't pan out the way it's supposed to - I didn't get that 'golden hour' - it's just your baby is away, and you’ve got to wait days, sometimes weeks, before you get to hold them.

“You're just looking at them through a wee plastic box.

 "But without the doctors and nurses she wouldn’t have been here.

“At Christmas you do reflect on those who are giving up time with their family to help families like us.

"You definitely do appreciate just how fragile life is.

“When we were in the unit there were babies who didn’t make it, and that just brings home just how lucky you actually are.”

And Sam says she and her family will appreciate every moment they have as they prepare to travel to Glasgow to celebrate the festive period with family.

Among them will be Everly's "wee" cousin - five months younger but already bigger than Everly when she arrived.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Everly (right) alongside her 'wee' cousin.

And Sam says it will be family time like this which will allow her to truly appreciate how far her daughter has come.

She added: “We’re just really thankful for the doctors and nurses in the neonatal unit.

"Without them she wouldn’t have the opportunity to actually be here and celebrate Christmas.

“At her first oxygen clinic, after her discharge, the doctor had said he never expected to see her our of the hospital let alone at his clinic.

“That just brought home how lucky we are to have her home.”