When Emma Young was born at 25 weeks weighing just 1lb 3oz, her parents faced weeks of agony when she repeatedly stopped breathing.
Amazingly, nurses and her mother Angela Young discovered that stroking the bottom of her feet appeared to jump-start her body and get her breathing again.
‘My daughter is alive thanks to her feet being tickled,’ said Mrs Young, 29, a human resources assistant who lives in Washington, Co Durham, with her husband Andrew, 28. ‘It really is a miracle that she is still with us.’
Because Emma was born so early her heart wasn’t fused together properly, so at six weeks old she had to have surgery to correct it.
Even thought the operation was a success, Emma was faced with another life-threatening problem afterwards – she would suddenly stop breathing dozens of times each day.
Mrs Young said: ‘The first time it happened Emma’s face went white and I thought we had lost her. But then the nurses leapt into action and tickled the soles of her feet.
‘Suddenly her little chest started to go up and down again.
‘The nurses told us that because she had been so premature, her body kept forgetting how to breathe.’
For another eight weeks Emma would stop breathing several times each day.
Each time Mrs Young would tickle her feet – which were the size of a postage stamp – to stimulate her body again and start her breathing.
The little fighter still gets her feet tickled now, but it’s just to make her laugh, and there’s no better sound in the world for her parents than her giggling.
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