A young Lancashire girl finally has the tummy button she has longed for.
Penny Fawcett, 11, survived against the odds after being born with her bowel completely on the outside of her body, and had several operations as a baby to correct the problem.
However, the procedure meant she was left without a navel – until now.
Ripley St Thomas student Penny was operated on at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool last week, and her mum Abi has spoken about her daughter’s bravery.
Abi also told how her then-husband Tommy “pinned her head to the pillow” to stop her from seeing the horrifying sight of her newborn baby’s disfigured body.
Abi, who lives in Bare and is assistant to the clerk of Morecambe Town Council, said her pregnancy with Penny had gone without a hitch.
“I attended every pre-pregnancy appointment and scan,” she said. “I was told all the way through that everything was fine and that my baby looked normal on the scan.”
Abi went into labour on August 27 2004, 13 days before her due date, and the baby was born naturally, weighing just 4lb 6oz.
“As soon as she came out I heard everybody go into panic,” Abi said. “I still remember it like it was yesterday.
“My baby girl was born with her complete bowel on the outside of her body.
“Tommy, my husband at the time, pinned my head to the pillow and would not allow me to look because, he explained later, it was too horrific to see.
“My baby was whisked away and at that point, when I was told, I had little hope of her survival.
“Lancaster hospital did not have the facilities to deal with this condition and would have sent me to either Liverpool or Manchester for a C section, had it been detected on the scan.”
Abi’s newborn baby was taken by ambulance to Alder Hey in Liverpool, with Tommy following in the car.
Abi, however, was not allowed in the ambulance or to leave the hospital in case her health deteriorated.
“I was left behind with my dad for six hours not knowing what was going on,” she said.
When Abi was released from hospital, she was able to visit Penny in Alder Hey.
“When I arrived I saw my baby for the first time,” she said. “It can only be described as the most horrible thing I have ever seen.
“My baby in an incubator, with a plastic bag containing her organs, laid in front of her.
“She was waiting to go into theatre so they could put a surgical bag on the bowel, with a hope it would reduce in size to enable the surgeons to hopefully put the bowel back inside Penny, at a later date.
“I signed the consent form which stated that my baby could die whilst having the procedure. They said there was a high risk of her not surviving the operation because she was so small.
“I was put in a private room with Tommy and we waited what seemed like weeks.
“Finally we had news – she had survived the op and all had gone as well as could be expected under the circumstances.”
The family spent the next few months at Alder Hey, with Penny being fed by tube and undergoing several operations.
After three weeks, she was taken out of ICU and onto the High Dependancy Unit, and this was when Abi was able to hold and feed her daughter for the first time.
“It was the most exciting, happiest day of my life,” said Abi, who also has another daughter, 14-year-old Lizzy.
Penny has since come on in leaps and bounds, and although she spent a short time on a special diet, she is now doing fine.
“I am so lucky that we got such a good surgeon and team,” Abi said. “They are amazing at Alder Hey; all the staff are wonderful.”
And last week, Penny was back at Alder Hey to have the scar on her tummy tidied up and to give her the tummy button that she’s longed for.
“When she was a baby we asked about her scar and belly button,” Abi said. “They tried to give her one but it didn’t stay.
“She has never worn a bikini or been able to show off her midriff. Since she was about eight or nine she has become more self-conscious and so I said we would try again.
“It went well. She was in surgery for three hours and they have done such a good job.
“Penny is fine now, and she is so pleased with it.
“Her sister is always flashing her midriff and I wear a lot of keep-fit clothing so now Penny will be able to join the crew!
“My baby was a survivor, against all the odds.
“My baby is no longer a baby. She is a strong, funny, bright happy girl and I am the proudest mum in the world.”