A 23-year-old dad had to save his two-month-old daughter’s life by performing CPR when she stopped breathing and turned blue at home, in an “absolutely terrifying” moment caused by a floppy windpipe after she was born with her oesophagus unattached to her stomach.
Ellie-Jae Bingham, 23, called for an ambulance while her husband, Luke, a vehicle security specialist, administered life-saving treatment to his daughter Leia as she “started to turn blue”.
Rushed to hospital, baby Leia was diagnosed with Covid, rhinovirus and chicken pox, which had a serious impact on her health.
Since then, she has had multiple surgeries and will need regular procedures throughout her life to “stretch” her oesophagus.
Ellie-Jae, who lives in Sheffield with Luke and their three children, Noah-Billy, five, Aria-Rose, two, and Leia, now five months, said: “Seeing her turn blue was absolutely terrifying.
“I was in a complete panic as any mum would be. Luckily we had completed basic live-saving training at the hospital – because it saved our little girl’s life.”
Ellie-Jae said there were no “alarm bells” during her pregnancy and she had a “very straightforward birth” on February 27 2023.
After routine newborn checks, Leia was ready to go home but, less than 24 hours later, Ellie-Jae and Luke noticed their baby was struggling to feed.
Ellie-Jae said: “She was choking a little and making loud noises while breathing. She was struggling with feeds and we became really concerned.
“Her breathing worsened overnight and we just knew something was seriously wrong with our daughter.”
Rushing the baby to Rotherham Hospital, doctors gave her a tube to pass food directly into her stomach, but an X-ray revealed the fitting failed due to the tube coiling in Leia’s throat.
Medics suspected Leia’s oesophagus and stomach were not properly connected and she was blue-lighted to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
When they arrived, Ellie-Jae and Luke were told their little girl would require several operations to stretch her oesophagus and reconnect it to her stomach, the first of which was scheduled for the following morning.
Ellie-Jae said: “We were in complete shock. We couldn’t comprehend what was happening or what our newborn daughter was about to go through.
“It was very hard. It’s kind of like you live in an amazing baby bubble when you first bring your baby home and that enjoyment is what you’ve been waiting for for so long, and then it all just gets, like, snatched away.”
The couple spent their first night at the hospital on camp beds and, as Leia went down to theatre for surgery, they were met by someone from The Sick Children’s Trust who gave them a place to stay at Magnolia House, a place run by the charity where families can stay close to their seriously ill children.
After an hour in theatre, where surgeons worked to rejoin her oesophagus to her stomach, Leia returned to the neonatal intensive care unit, where she was put on a ventilator.
Ellie-Jae added: “Thankfully the surgery was a success but it would be a long recovery and we knew other ops were needed down the line.”
For the first week, Ellie-Jae and Luke stayed together at Magnolia House and, after that, Luke stayed behind while Ellie-Jae moved home to be with their other two children, returning daily to the hospital to visit Leia.
As Leia’s operations continued, she needed additional oxygen support, but the doctors could not work out why.
Following an investigation, it was concluded she had been suffering from reflux.
As her feeds could only get so far down, some were spilling into her breathing tube, causing chest infections, so Leia was switched to a different tube which connected straight to her intestine.
She was also diagnosed with tracheomalacia – a floppy windpipe – but Leia continued to get stronger and, halfway through her treatment, in April, she was stable enough that the family could return home.
Ellie-Jae said: “We were naturally apprehensive but really excited to have her home.
“We’d been home nearly a week and she’d been doing really well. She had a tube through her nose which was stuck to her face with stickers. She hated when we changed them and would cry so we were just doing that one day when she just stopped breathing.”
Ellie-Jae said the couple waited for their daughter to take a breath and began to panic when she did not start breathing.
The mum added: “I went into panic and started flapping but Luke reminded me that sometimes babies do hold their breath before they’re about to cry out so we waited a few seconds to see if she would.”
When Leia did not take a breath, Ellie-Jae rang 999 while Luke started to perform CPR.
She said: “Leia was turning blue and I was frantic. We’d done basic life-saving training at the hospital which they offer to all parents before you leave.
“We feel so lucky that we did do that.”
Bringing Leia back round, paramedics arrived to rush the family to hospital.
On the way, Leia stopped breathing again and she was given further CPR in the ambulance.
At the hospital, she was diagnosed with Covid, rhinovirus and chicken pox, a combination that had a devastating impact on her health.
She was given oxygen and remained in hospital for a further two weeks.
Ellie-Jae said: “It was so scary and the last thing you ever imagine when you have a baby.
“Luckily, she’s now doing a lot better and I’m hopeful that the worst is behind us.”
In May, Leia was strong enough to be discharged and has since been “doing well” at home, returning to the hospital weekly for check-ups.
She will continue to need surgeries to stretch her oesophagus as she grows bigger, with her next one currently set for the autumn.
For now, Ellie-Jae said she is enjoying the “normality” of having all her children under one roof.
She said: “It was very difficult, especially having to split our time between the hospital and home to be with our other children. They were definitely affected by the things going on and now I can see how happy they are again with all of us home.
“It’s nice to have some normal family time together. We will always be so thankful to The Sick Children’s Trust for supporting us through one of the most challenging times of our lives.”