'We can never thank them enough for saving Isabel'
THE proud parents of a premature baby have welcomed home their "little miracle" after five months in hospital.
Brave Isabel Harding, born 12 weeks prematurely, has spent most of her short life in an incubator hooked up to ventilators and tubes.
The tiny tot has beaten the odds, and is finally living with proud parents Alastair, 33, and Lucy, 34, in Worships Hill, Riverhead.
But although Isabel is an identical twin, she came home alone.
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Her sister Chloe died at just 12 days, suffering a collapsed lung days after a brain and lung haemorrhage.
Mrs Harding unexpectedly went into rapid labour on December 11.
Rushed to Pembury's Tunbridge Wells Hospital, the twins were born two minutes apart and immediately whisked to different hospitals.
Chloe, weighing 1lb 15oz, was sent to Medway Maritime, while Isabel, at 1lb 12oz, was sped to Ashford Hospital.
After ten days apart, Isabel was stable enough to be transferred to Medway, where she was placed in an incubator next to her sister.
But Chloe died the next day after developing sepsis (blood poisoning) and when her twin developed the infection two days later, Mr and Mrs Harding feared the worst.
"Chloe's death was impossibly hard," said Mrs Harding, who works in art therapy at Hospice in the Weald.
"We had been able to cuddle Isabel once but had never touched Chloe, except through the gloves in the incubator – she was just too poorly."
However, Isabel beat the infection and, after treatment for a hole in her heart, was moved back to Tunbridge Wells Hospital in January, improving enough to move to special care the following month.
But she had been diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which caused her heart to beat too fast, and her heart stopped twice in March.
The medical team stabilised her and she finally went home on March 26.
Mrs Harding said: "For the first few days she was an absolute dream but on the seventh night we woke up to find her grey and struggling to breathe."
Isabel was rushed to paediatric intensive care at Tunbridge Wells Hospital where she had to be resuscitated after suffering heart failure.
Mr Harding, a risk manager in London, added: "That was horrendous, like being back with Chloe all over again. The doctors told us later how much danger she had been in. We almost lost her."
With round-the-clock care at hospitals in Tunbridge Wells and London, Isabel improved and went home for good on May 9.
Mrs Harding said: "People are always amazed by her age as she's the size of a newborn.
"She is just the most beautiful girl."
Although she weighs just 7lb, her health has stabilised and her nine medications a day will soon be reduced.
The Hardings, who raised more than £5,000 for Medway Maritime's neonatal unit in memory of Chloe, are now hoping to match this feat for the hospital at Pembury.
Mrs Harding said: "We can never thank the staff there enough for saving Isabel's life.
"The bond you feel with these nurses is unbelievable. The level of care is amazing.
"Isabel has fought so hard to come this far."
To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/isabel-harding.