NHS at 75: Mum describes how the ordeal with the baby motivated her to become a nurse

A newborn is cared for by Jenna Wilkes in the neonatal unit at Lincoln

When Jenna Wilkes' first child, who weighed only 1 lb 4 oz. and was born nearly four months early, she was employed as a beautician.

She made the life-altering decision to retrain and join them after observing the staff on the neonatal units at hospitals in Sheffield and Lincoln.

Anne-Marie Tasker, a health correspondent for BBC Look North, went to meet her.

Jenna Wilkes recalls going to a typical midwife appointment twelve years ago. She was then forwarded to Lincoln County Hospital's assessment center.

"Everything happened really fast" after that, she claims. At 26 weeks, Ophelia was born five days later.

She was born in Sheffield because we had recently moved there, Jenna explains.

Ophelia weighed just 1lb 4oz when she was born
Ophelia was born weighing only 1 lb 4 oz.

Half a bag of sugar's worth of weight, or 1 lb 4 oz, was Ophelia's birthweight.

If you laid her with her legs crossed, she could fit in the palm of your hand, says Jenna. Her hand was about the size of the tip of my finger. ".

She claims that the family had to deal with numerous difficulties.

Ophelia needed blood transfusions because one of her lungs had collapsed and there were worries she had sepsis.

Jenna claims, "I was really sick when I had Ophelia. "I had Hellp syndrome and pre-eclampsia. Due to my illness, I was unable to see Ophelia for the first two days of her life. ".

Ophelia was born nearly four months early
Ophelia arrived almost four months early.

Doctors once suggested to Ophelia's family to have her christened "because they weren't sure how the outcome would go," according to one report.

I declined," Jenna claims. "I predicted she would struggle, and she did. She went through highs and lows. She returned to Lincoln at the age of one, unlike the other newborns on the neonatal unit who all experience a little bit of a rollercoaster ride. ".

Hours spent observing medical professionals stirred something inside Jenna.

She exclaims, "They just amazed me.". "I used to be in awe of them as I watched and wish I could do that. I decided to do it and informed them that I would be returning. Also, I was. ".

Jenna attended college for a year and finished an introductory course. She subsequently enrolled in a three-year program at the University of Hull, where she graduated with first-class honors in children's nursing.

After that, she was hired by Lincoln's neonatal unit.

In September, Ophelia turns thirteen. Ovie, Jenna's three-year-old son, is also her child.

At Lincoln County Hospital, Jenna is currently a trainee advanced neonatal practitioner. She balances her master's degree studies at the University of Lincoln while working and raising a family.

Without the experiences I've had, she says, "I don't think I would have ended up doing this job.".

"I don't think the memories of taking care of tiny babies ever fade away. If a baby is born at a similar gestation to Ophelia was, or at a similar weight or size, it brings back a lot of memories, both good and bad, but it also ignites the passion and fire in my belly that drives me to want to do the best for that baby and see them through their neonatal journey and into their forever home. ".

Jenna Wilkes and daughter Ophelia
Ophelia, the daughter of Jenna Wilkes.

Ophelia is praised by Jenna as "amazing".

She doesn't have any health issues. She still has a strong personality, enjoys dancing, and can twirl a baton. She is the best big sister and is vivacious. Super healthy and fit. ".

According to Jenna, her daughter likely would not be alive today without the NHS.

She continues, "And probably neither would I.

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