For most expectant parents giving birth to an extremely premature baby is a nightmare scenario that you hope you never have to face; but for one Doncaster family, who were forced to experience that heartache twice, this was only the beginning of their difficult journey.
When Joanne Smith gave birth to Freya 15 weeks early the family believed their troubles to be over - after the miracle tot who weighed the same as a bag of sugar when she was born pulled through despite only being given a 50 per cent chance of survival.
Freya, now aged nine, was the much longed-for first child of Joanne and Lee, who suffered three miscarriages in the two years prior to her birth.
But the miscarriages left 42-year-old Joanne with a condition called Asherman’s syndrome, which is the name given to scar tissue in the uterus that can prevent women from getting pregnant or make them suffer recurrent miscarriages.
Despite the obstacles, the couple continued with their dream of adding another child to their family and Joanne became pregnant with their second child in early 2010.
But just as with Freya, Joanne did not make it much past the halfway point of her pregnancy before she going into labour with Pollie at 24 weeks.
Little Pollie weighed just 1lb 10ozs when she was born, and due to the trauma of the early birth she suffered a significant brain bleed which resulted in her having hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain.
Joanne, of Newhall Road, Kirk Sandall, said: “Pollie was very poorly and after a couple of days she was put on maximum support.
“The medical staff advised us that there was nothing else they could do for her – it was all down to the strength of Pollie.
“They also advised us to call a chaplain, should we wish. Luckily, Pollie had the strength to overcome this hurdle and her lungs slowly began to improve. She spent a total of 23 weeks and four days between Jessops, Sheffield and Doncaster Royal Infirmary.”
Shortly after her birth the brave youngster was fitted with two shunts - a thin tube surgically implanted in the brain to drain away the excess fluid in her skull - to manage her hydrocephalus.
The shunts will remain in Pollie’s skull for the rest of her life.
In addition to Pollie’s hydrocephalus she also has cerebral palsy which affects the right hand side of her body preventing her from being able to walk.
Pollie’s six month stint in hospital following her difficult birth was just the beginning of the family’s difficult journey, and at 19-months-old the tot developed epilepsy as a by-product of her brain injury.
Since then the inspirational family have continuously fundraised, primarily at first, in order to help the ‘determined youngster’ achieve her milestones as an infant and now for therapies and treatments to help with her mobility.
Joanne, who works at the BMW Distribution Centre in Thorne, says the family have had to fundraise because many of the treatments Pollie needs are not available on the NHS.
She explained: “The fundraising has helped us to purchase a specialist trike to strengthen her legs, and to be able to enjoy outdoor play with her big sister Freya.
“In 2014 we sold our car, cashed in our savings and also fundraised - this allowed us to take Pollie for Stem cell treatment in Panama, South America.
“After that, we also took her to America for a three week intensive physiotherapy programme which she did for four hours per day, five days a week. From the six months that Pollie had received her stem cells and carried out her intensive therapy, she has progressed well and is now more interactive with the family and her peers at school, and is also much stronger.
“She has also started using a walking frame by herself.”
In addition to a daily therapy routine, Pollie also attends two different private therapy sessions twice a week.
Her other treatments include a session with a cranial osteopathist in Sheffield every eight weeks as well as visits once every six months to the Snowdrop Neurodevelopment Centre, Exeter and Brainwave Physiotherapy Centre, Warrington and treatment with a specialist physio in London once every three months for five days at a time.
Pollie also has regular horse riding and swimming lessons.
Commenting on the fundraising and their dedication to ensuring Pollie has the best possible treatment, Joanne said: “We’ve done everything from afternoon tea to pamper days to clairvoyance evenings.
“It has been very difficult at times and we’ve had a lot to deal with, but it’s worth it.
“Some days you do think why is this happening to me, but you’ve got to carry on.
“We have taken her all over the country, and for the last two years to a world renowned physiotherapy centre in America.
“There Pollie does an intensive therapy session, where she works hard for four to five hours a day for the three weeks.
“This type of therapy works great for Pollie due to the intensity and the repetition of the programme.
“The gains she makes in the three weeks of intensive therapy, are much quicker than they would be if she was just doing traditional physiotherapy.
“Wheatley Golf Club has kindly raised money over the last 12 months for Pollie, which will help to pay for her three-week intensive therapy program which she starts in May 2016 when the team from America visit the UK.”
The most recent fundraiser held by the Smith family was an afternoon tea for 90 people earlier this month, with entertainment from The Bowkers - who Joanne describes as great.
Pollie is also included in the registered charity, the Tree of Hope, Footprints for Pollie which you can visit here.
Anyone wanting to donate to the Smith family can do so by txting POLS50 to 70070.