Jayme, the only child of Randal and Yumi Wong, was born in 2013 at 23 weeks’ gestation, weighing just 680 grams, slightly bigger than an adult hand. Doctors said there was a high likelihood that Jayme would have a brain bleed or long-term health complications. This was devastating news for Jayme’s parents who had already experienced two miscarriages.
Jayme’s father Randal had never heard of a baby surviving birth at such a low gestational age. “My son was so tiny and completely covered in tubes. It was a difficult time and there was high anxiety.”
Jayme in the NICU
Randal felt well supported by the medical staff, who shared information with him and Yumi and dedicated much time and technology to help Jayme survive. After four months, Jayme was able to go home. Thankfully there were no effects on his brain but, because his lungs were underdeveloped, he spent several months using a ventilator. He also had a tumour in his liver and required surgery and chemotherapy when he was only 18 months old.
A decade after being born too soon, Jayme is thriving. “To be honest I am impressed,” his father Randal says. “We did not have great hope and were prepared for the worst. He has amazed us. He not only survived but is thriving.” He loves school, has many friends, speaks fluent Japanese and English, and dreams of becoming a Formula 1 racing driver or a basketball star.
Randal and Yumi still worry about how he will fare in his teenage and adult years. Jayme is physically smaller than other children of his age, and they fear that he will be bullied because of his size. But if his first 10 years of life are anything to go by, Jayme is destined for greatness. His curiosity, love of history, and social and presentation skills are marvellous.
It took many years for Randal and Yumi to talk openly about their experience of preterm birth. Yumi says she felt very alone and many of her social relationships evaporated.
Randal, Yumi and their son Jayme
“Japan is a developed country, but preterm birth is not a topic that is openly discussed.” Asked about her wish for the decade ahead, Yumi said she would like to see communities coming together to talk about preterm birth and to share their journeys. “Parents should not have to rely only on the internet for information. Sharing experiences with each other as humans would be great and relatable.”