Nola’s Army – the birth of a support group in Canterbury

Born prematurely at just 27 weeks old, Nola spent the first 4 months of her days in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) fighting for her life and showing the world just how strong and determined she was.


Emma, Nola’s mum, started to post updates of Nola’s journey whilst in NICU on TikTok and began to garner an audience, later setting up Nola’s Army on Facebook – a place to follow updates on Nola’s situation and a place to discuss premature births and offer support.


We caught up with Emma to find out a little bit more about Nola’s emotional and obstacle-filled beginning to life, how she’s now thriving in part thanks to the amazing work carried out by NHS staff, and the support group that was born of out Emma and Nola’s journey.


Emma, who spent most of her life in Herne Bay but now lives in Canterbury, is mother to Nola and her older sister Isabella, 3, and spoke to us about Nola’s introduction to the world: “Nola was born at 27 weeks and four days, only a week before I was told she would have to be over 550g to survive, at the time the chances were very low that she would gain that much.

“She was born at 1lb 6oz (620g), she didn’t need any intervention breathing wise, as small as she was, she even cried when she came out via emergency C-section.

“She was doing so well, but when she hit 5 weeks old, she got NEC (necrotising enterocolitis). It’s a serious disease which kills 65% of babies, it also destroys the bowel. Nola also had a lumbar puncture performed for Meningitis and she also fought sepsis at the time. As soon as she got better, she got NEC again. I spent Christmas with no cuddles and watching my baby stop breathing in front of me countless of times.”


All in all, Nola has had 10 blood transfusions as well as suffering from jaundice which never went away and ended up with Nola being placed on liver medication for a couple of months. A few weeks before she was ready to return home, she had stage 3 Retinopathy of Prematurity and had to have emergency laser eye surgery at St Thomas Hospital in London. However, thanks in part to the incredible work by nurses and hospital staff, as well as Nola’s unwavering determination, after 4 months in the NICU she started to grow and is now thriving at home, 6 months old and only 7lb 8oz.


Through Nola’s Army, which has hundreds of followers from around the world, Emma is able to speak to parents or soon to be, and offer advice and guidance regarding premature births and babies, as well as carry out fundraising projects like making ‘prem packs’ for William Harvey Hospital.


To follow Nola’s journey, make your way over to Nola’s Army on Facebook today.

by Callum Knowles

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