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‘Sugar bag baby’ determined to give something back as a neonatal nurse

Sophie Proud, who overcame many health problems in childhood after being born at 24 weeks’ gestation, graduated as a children’s nurse and now works at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough
Sophie Proud

Two decades on from her remarkable survival as an infant, the sugar bag baby who was born at just 24 weeks gestation has become a neonatal nurse.

Sophie Proud made headlines around the world when she was born weighing 1lb 7oz less than a standard bag of sugar.

Her eyes were fused together, she was the length of my hand, her skin was transparent, her mother Janette Proud told Nursing Standard. She had bouts of chest infections, she underwent open heart surgery when she was three weeks old, and she had a blocked artery in her hand and was in danger of losing it.

Neonatal unit placement

Now, 21 years on, Ms Proud has graduated from Teesside University as a childrens


Sophie Proud, who made headlines as the ‘sugar bag baby’ in 1996, is now a neonatal nurse. Picture: NCJ Media

Two decades on from her remarkable survival as an infant, the ‘sugar bag baby’ who was born at just 24 weeks’ gestation has become a neonatal nurse.

Sophie Proud made headlines around the world when she was born weighing 1lb 7oz – less than a standard bag of sugar.

‘Her eyes were fused together, she was the length of my hand, her skin was transparent,’ her mother Janette Proud told Nursing Standard. ‘She had bouts of chest infections, she underwent open heart surgery when she was three weeks old, and she had a blocked artery in her hand and was in danger of losing it.’

Neonatal unit placement

Now, 21 years on, Ms Proud has graduated from Teesside University as a children’s nurse and works at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. She said knowing what she went through as a baby made her determined to ‘give something back’.

During her degree, Ms Proud had a chance placement at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary in the neonatal unit that provided her life-saving care as a baby, as reported previously by Nursing Standard. During the placement she worked alongside the named nurse that had looked after her.

‘There were loads of the team still there – I think I made them feel very old,’ joked Ms Proud. ‘They couldn’t believe it had been 20 years.

‘I am still in touch with quite a few of them, because I do a lot of research with the consultant on the ward and he was my registrar when I was a baby.’

Research and fundraising

Ms Proud works on the Butterfly Project, which has conducted research into loss during or after pregnancy, especially in multiple births where one or both twins die.

She has been a fundraiser for the Tiny Lives charity since age six, helping to organise auctions, balls and an annual Christmas reunion party for children who were born prematurely or ill and are at different stages of development.

‘Obviously I knew what a neonatal nurse was, from when I was fundraising and went on the unit for cheque presentations,’ she said.

‘But I didn’t realise the significance of what I went through until I went on the unit during my placement. It made me want to give something back.’

‘A complete circle’

When Ms Proud was born, her mother was warned her daughter could suffer severe problems with her development, but by the age of three she had recovered.

Her sister Aimee Dornan was also inspired by Ms Proud’s stay on the unit as an infant. As she sat by her younger sister’s bedside in hospital, nurses took the time to show Ms Dornan where tubes were placed using her doll.

Their care and compassion inspired Ms Dornan to become a neonatal nurse herself, and she recently took up a job at the Royal Victoria.

‘It’s a complete circle,’ said Ms Proud.


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