A Scots mum has spoken of her heartbreak at losing her baby son after he was born with a rare birthmark on his liver.
Rebecca Stevenson and her husband Adam welcomed their son Leo on August 2, 2019 at just 35 weeks, and were devastated when doctors told the couple their baby boy had a hemangioma – more commonly known as a strawberry birthmark – which covered half his liver.
The birthmark was so unusually large it had caused his heart to swell to double its size and doctors warned the couple the tot would not survive to full term.
Strawberry birthmarks are a collection of tangled blood vessels and are harmless when they appear on the skin and even on the liver when they are more commonly small.
However, Leo’s was so large it was causing his heart distress as it pumped twice as fast as normal.
The tot underwent MRI, CT and ultrasound scans as baffled doctors at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital tried to figure out a course of action.
Medics in Scotland had never encountered anything like its size before and ultimately decided to transfer Leo to Kings College Hospital in London where a consultant there had seen one similar case and agreed to operate.
Rebecca, 27 from Cumbernauld, told the Daily Record: “I didn’t even get the chance to hold Leo after my emergency c-section because he was immediately rushed to the NICU. It was a very difficult and surreal experience.
“Leo was transferred to London via air ambulance and Adam and I followed down on the train. It was very frightening. The surgeons told us the surgery was high risk and he might not make it through.”
But brave Leo survived the risky operation and Rebecca and Adam, also 27, were relieved when his consultant came and told them the good news, but warned the following 24 hours would be critical.
The couple, who are originally from Ayrshire, were not allowed to see Leo immediately after surgery because he was still in theater as medics struggled to safely move him from the surgery bed to his incubator.
Around 90 minutes later Rebecca saw a crash team rushing through the ward and she knew her baby was gone.
Remembering the moment, she said: “I saw the resuscitation team running and I said to Adam; ‘They are for Leo’ and he tried to reassure me that maybe not, but I just knew. I knew it was for him.”
Shortly afterwards Leo’s consultant came back to the couple and delivered the gut-wrenching news their baby son, who had fought so hard to live, had passed away. He was just six-days-old.
Rebecca said: “His wee body just couldn’t take it. It was too much and he slipped away. The surgeon said he worked on him longer than he usually would because he had desperately wanted to save him, but eventually he realized there was just nothing more that could be done.”
Following his death the couple were finally allowed to see their baby son and heartbreakingly Rebecca got to hold her child for the first time.
She said: “The first time I held Leo he had already passed away. He was whisked away so quickly when he was born that only Adam managed to get a quick hold of him. It was not the mothering experience I had planned or expected. It was a very, very sad day.”
However just over a year later the couple found joy through their heartbreak and welcomed a second baby son who they named Roux Leo Stevenson, a touching tribute to the big brother he never met.
Rebecca said her pregnancy was straightforward but she suffered from constant anxiety that ‘something would go wrong’.
She said: “Pregnancy after baby loss is very, very difficult. My anxiety was through the roof. Even though the doctors and my midwife said what happened to Leo was just an anomaly and probably one in a million chance of that happening in the first place, mind never happening to us again, but the fear is still real.”
But baby Roux was born healthy and happy on November 19, 2020 and the now one-year-old tot is thriving and his parents can see flashes of his brother.
Rebecca added: “He doesn’t look exactly like Leo but there are definite similarities and a strong resemblance. Their wee noses are definitely the same.”
Rebecca’s friends Ruth Hall, Helen Hall and Nadia Simpson are now running the Manchester Marathon to raise money for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity who provided incredible support to Rebecca and Adam during the worst experience of their lives.
Rebecca said: “They really are a fantastic charity. The work they do is so important and just invaluable to parents like us.”
If you would like to donate and sponsor the girls visit their Just Giving page here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.