When Oscar Dunn was born at 26 weeks gestation, weighing just 1lb 11oz, he was given around a 50% chance of survival.

The first time Carly and Mark got to see their newborn son, he was bright red, lying in an incubator and connected to a ventilator
forcing air into his lungs, as he wasn't strong enough to breathe on his own.

He remained in an incubator on a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for the first four months of his life, where his parents could only visit him up to two hours a day.

But now first-time parents Cary and Mark, both 32, are overjoyed to have their baby boy at home and thriving after a "rollercoaster" year.

Carly, from Seaham, told Chronicle Live: "When we heard those words that he could finally come home I burst into tears.

"I had to stay in the hospital overnight the night before and I just couldn't sleep.

Oscar Dunn was born at 26 weeks gestation weighing just 1lb 11oz
Oscar Dunn was born at 26 weeks gestation weighing just 1lb 11oz

"I was nervous because he'd never been in the same room as me alone, where I would fully take care of him - change his nappies, give him his feeds.

"But all I could think was 'you're coming home tomorrow, you're finally coming home with us.'

"And when we eventually got home, me and Mark both cried because we couldn't believe that the time had come for him to be at home with us."

Oscar was born on June 9, at 26 weeks and one day gestation, after a blood test at 24 weeks found that Carly had a high blood pressure and severe pre-eclampsia.

Carly had become concerned that she couldn't feel her baby move and she remained at Sunderland Royal Hospital for two weeks, where she received daily scans to monitor her baby.

Oscar Dunn in incubator
Little Oscar was given only a 50% survival chance

When one scan showed that blood flow had become severely restricted in the umbilical cord, Carly was blue-lighted to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, as there were no neonatal beds available in Sunderland.

Oscar was born by C-section and swiftly transferred to the hospital's NICU, where he spent two-and-a-half months, before returning to Sunderland for further treatment.

Carly, who works as an electrician, said: "It's quite a shock when you walk into the NICU and hear all of the beeps and sounds of the ventilators and see your little baby in an incubator.

"The worst part is knowing how poorly your little baby is and not being able to do anything about it and not being able to be by hisside.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, Carly and Mark could only visit Oscar for two hours a day, wearing full PPE.

Every evening, when Mark finished work as an engineer, the couple would make the 60-mile round trip to see their son.

Carly added: "You just wanted to be a mam to your baby, but because of Covid restrictions you couldn't - it was only for those two hours a day."

His grandparents were also unable to visit their grandson, to prevent risk of infection in the hospital, until Oscar's health deteriorated when he was four weeks old.

Carly received a call from the hospital to ask if she would like to come into the hospital early and was later asked if she would like
Oscar's grandparents to meet him for the first time.

The couple knew there was a high chance that they could lose their son, but it was a question they were too scared to ask staff.

Carly said: "We both had an idea what was going on, but we were too scared to ask the question, 'how bad is it?'"

Mark added: "I knew I needed to ask, 'how bad is it?' I asked [and the consultant] replied, 'It's very bad, we have got you a flat just next to the unit and you can invite the grandparents to see him.

Oscar Dunn returning home after four mouths in NICU. Pictured with dad Mark Dunn
Oscar Dunn returning home after four mouths in NICU. Pictured with dad Mark Dunn

"'The next few hours will be make or break but we will do our best.'"

Fortunately for the family, one consultant asked if he could try one last attempt at saving Oscar's life with hand ventilation.

The couple went to bed that night hoping they didn't get a knock on the door from a nurse, but thanks to the consultant's attempts to save Oscar, he is now a happy, thriving 11-month-old.

Oscar was allowed to return home from hospital in October, aged four months.

He now weighs 19lb 6oz and has recently started to fit into six to nine month clothing.

Carly added: "It has been such a hard, rollercoaster of a journey.

"One minute you're on a high when you see him doing well, but then the next minute it just changes and you hit rock bottom because something has gone wrong.

"I think a lot of people don't realise that there's this little community called the NICU. People think that pregnancy is pregnancy and at the end of it you have a lovely, healthy little baby, but for us that wasn't the case."

Brave little Oscar was only 1lb 11oz
Brave little Oscar was only 1lb 11oz

She added: "Oscar is a little fighter, he's so strong. He's so lovely and he's doing all the things that he should be doing for his age now.

"He's so cheeky and he's got such a lovely personality. He was known as 'the feisty one' at James Cook because all the nurses used to keep diaries on the babies in the NICU.

"They would write what the baby has been up to and every time we read it the nurses would have written 'Oscar's been feisty again today and trying to pull his tubes out.'"

Carly and Mark say they are lucky that there was technology to help them to stay updated on Oscar's development, especially while they couldn't be at the hospital.

And they are incredibly thankful to nursing staff and the Neoangels charity, who support families with premature babies, for their efforts to keep them in contact with their baby.

Carly said: "We'd often get pictures from the nurses of Oscar with a message saying 'night night mummy and daddy, love you,' or 'can’t wait to see you tomorrow.'

"And you'd get pictures of him doing things like sticking his tongue out.

The Mirror's newsletter brings you the latest news, exciting showbiz and TV stories, sport updates and essential political information.

The newsletter is emailed out first thing every morning, at 12noon and every evening.

Never miss a moment by signing up to our newsletter here.

"Neoangels also did little things for us. We got a little soft toy elephant and when you pressed a button on it you could hear Oscar's heartbeat in the elephant.

"When we weren't with Oscar we could press the elephant and hear his little heartbeat."

She added: "Oscar was also in hospital for Mark's first Father's Day and when we got the the neonatal unit there was a present and a card on top of his incubator saying 'To Daddy'.

"When you opened it there were two footprints of Oscar's feet and it said 'Happy first Father's Day Daddy', and it also had a little
picture and a superhero poem.

"We are so grateful to everyone who kept us in contact with Oscar when we couldn't be there for him and we're so happy to have him home now."