Baby stranded in Italy after arriving at 25 weeks on parents' 'babymoon' finally arrives home

13th Feb 18 | Family

The happy news comes eight weeks after little Matilda Challoner arrived early weighing just 1lb 6oz - less than an iPad.

PA REAL LIFE Matilda in hospital (14) Cropped (1)

A dangerously premature baby, who was born at 25 weeks, while her parents were on holiday, has FINALLY arrived home, after spending EIGHT weeks stranded in an Italian hospital.

Little Matilda Challoner, who at eight weeks old is still six weeks off her March 2018 due date, was set to arrive at Doncaster Sheffield Airport (COR NAME) in Doncaster, south Yorkshire, late yesterday (THURS), after taking off from Verona Villafranca Airport in an Italian Air Ambulance, accompanied by her delighted mum Jordan Wilson, 26, a pilot, and specialist health staff.

Jordan, of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, whose fiancé, Ashley Challoner, 27, had driven back for 13 hours ahead of his family on Wednesday, said: "We are over-the-moon. I can't believe she is coming home. It's all we have hoped for."

Jordan, Ashley and Matilda (PA Real Life/Collect)Jordan, Ashley and Matilda (PA Real Life/Collect)

Their homecoming follows a tumultuous few months for the couple, who flew to Italy on a 'babymoon' - a pre-baby holiday - to Lake Garda and Venice on November 28, 2017.

Entirely unexpectedly, student nurse, Jordan, went into early labour and gave birth to 1lb 6oz Matilda - who weighed less than an iPad - on December 3, 2017.

Calling their baby Matilda, which means 'battler,' the couple recalled how she was immediately hooked up to all sorts of tubes and machines - unable to breathe unaided.

Baby Matilda in hospital (PA Real Life/Collect)Baby Matilda in hospital (PA Real Life/Collect)

But, a few weeks ago, she was taken off her ventilator and finally took her first gulps of air unaided.

More good news followed earlier this week.

"We got a call from the insurance people, who said the doctors had been in contact with them and said Matilda was well enough to fly," continued Jordan. "This was the first we knew of it. The news was amazing."

Matilda's passport (PA Real Life/Collect)Matilda’s passport (PA Real Life/Collect)

Then, with help from the British Consulate, Jordan and Ashley made the five-hour return trip from Trento where Matilda was in hospital, to Milan, where they were provided with an emergency passport for her.

They had feared this could take up to six weeks – the standard wait time on getting a passport under normal circumstances.

"Finally, we're on our way home," said Jordan. "The doctors are preparing Matilda for the flight. They're making sure all her tubes are safe and secure.”

Baby Matilda and mum Jordan's hand (PA Real Life/Collect)Baby Matilda and mum Jordan’s hand (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued: "On arriving in Doncaster, we will be met by an ambulance and she will be taken to Rotherham General Hospital.

"We don't know how long she will need to be there for yet."

While they are glad to be flying back to England, Jordan said she and Ashley plan to take Matilda back to her birthplace – Osperdale Santa Chiara in Trento - when she is older, to show her where the whole drama happened.

"The Italian medics have been brilliant," she smiled. "And this is where she experienced her first Christmas and New Year."

When the couple - who got engaged in Budapest, Hungary, in 2016, after four years of dating – booked their Italian break, they thought it would be a final fling, before their lives as parents began.

"Surprised but delighted" when they had discovered Jordan was pregnant in June 2017, until the holiday, she had enjoyed a textbook pregnancy, giving them no reason to expect such an early delivery.

Jordan with her pregnancy bump (PA Real Life/Collect)Jordan with her pregnancy bump (PA Real Life/Collect)

But, just a day-and-a-half into their break, disaster struck when Jordan's waters broke at 4am in their hotel room.

"I knew I hadn't wet myself because it was sweet smelling," she said. "Ashley drove me to a nearby hospital and we were transferred by ambulance to a bigger hospital at Trento."

An intervaginal scan indicated she was in labour, which was slowed by drugs, but, on December 3, after a 50-minute delivery, Matilda arrived.

Matilda (PA Real Life/Collect)Matilda (PA Real Life/Collect)

Small, but healthy, considering she was so early, she was whisked to neo-natal intensive care.

"Thankfully, we had insurance and that has paid for her treatment and our apartment," explained her mum. "Otherwise, I dread to think of the cost.

"But, it has been incredibly stressful."

Jordan and Ashley, before Matilda was born (PA Real Life/Collect)Jordan and Ashley, before Matilda was born (PA Real Life/Collect)

Just a few weeks after her birth - which Jordan learned was caused by an unexplained infection in her placenta – Matilda's weight slipped to 1lb 3oz. She has also suffered from other ailments, including jaundice, low haemoglobin, meaning she needed blood transfusions, and infections.

Her parents sat by her bed every day, including on Christmas Day – when medics presented her with a a cast of her hand and foot, and a hat, as a gift – and on New Year's Eve.

"We intended to be in Italy for just a few days, to mark the end of our life as a family of two," smiled Jordan. "We never thought we would still be in Italy in February."

© Press Association 2018