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Premature baby one of youngest in UK to catch Covid celebrating first birthday

A premature baby who was one of the youngest in Britain to contract coronavirus has celebrated his first birthday.

Theo Stobbs’ battle for life became a symbol of hope at the height of the first pandemic when he was photographed being handed to his mum in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

The infant, weighing just over two-and-a-half pounds, wore just a white nappy and a little woolly hat as he was lifted out of an incubator.

Covid rules meant that both his mother Kirsty Anderson, 34, and nurse Kirsty Hartley needed to put on a green Covid-19 mask before the loving handover could take place.

Today the tot is a happy, healthy baby – who is well on his way to learning to crawl.

To reach his first birthday, Theo had to overcome not just being born three months early, but also being one of the youngest people in Britain to contract the deadly virus.

Both he and his mother tested positive after a single trip outside their home following months of shielding.

Theo's battle for life became a symbol of hope at the height of the pandemic
Theo’s battle for life became a symbol of hope at the height of the pandemic

Theo’s brother Arlo, two, avoided the sickness despite frequently taking the infant’s dummy from his mouth and sneaking off with it.

‘It’s been a surreal time, but somehow Theo has helped us all get through it,’ said Kirsty.

Her baby weighed only 2lb 4oz when he was born at Burnley General Hospital on April 20. She was allowed a single quick kiss before he was whisked away to an incubator.

His skin was so thin that neither she nor her partner Leon Stobbs, 35, a self-employed plumber and gas engineer, could stroke him – all they were allowed to do was gently cradle him in a containment hold.

The first nine weeks amounted to a fight for life. Luckily medics had managed to give his mother two steroid injections after her waters broke.

And that gave him a crucial head start by allowing his lungs to mature just a little before he was born. Later, he went through three blood transfusions to help raise his oxygen levels.

Theo Stobbs was one of the youngest people to catch Covid-19
Theo Stobbs was one of the youngest people to catch Covid-19

His parents had only an hour with Theo on the day he was born. For weeks after they had to take turns at visiting him – Kirsty during the day, Leon in the evenings after he’d finished work.

Kirsty and Arlo were living temporarily with her parents, Leon in a separate bubble at the family home where he finished the work he’d only just started on Theo’s nursery.

The tot finally came home in June, waved away from the NICU by many of the staff who had cared for him.

But then in October, his mother tested positive for Covid-19 – and two days later he did too.

‘I went into meltdown,’ explained Kirsty. ‘We’d been so strict about shielding him that not even his grandparents had been able to hold him.

‘And Arlo only got to know him at the start from pictures and videos on my mum’s phone.’

Theo is now a happy, healthy baby who is a bundle of smiles
Theo is now a happy, healthy baby who is a bundle of smiles

Despite catching the virus, Theo suffered no more than a slight cough. His mother only lost her sense of taste and smell for a time.

‘He’s fabulous now, and you wouldn’t even know he’d had the virus,’ said Kirsty. ‘He’s a happy and healthy little baby.

‘Arlo is absolutely obsessed with him. And whenever Theo hears his brother’s voice he’s immediately looking for him. They’re so cute together.’

Kirsty remains Facebook friends with both the nurse who handed her Theo for the first time and many of the other NICU nurses at Burnley General.

Meanwhile, the iconic photo of Theo’s hospital handover sits proudly in a frame on the family’s mantlepiece.



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