The Baby Whose Mum Has To Tickle His Feet Every Night To Keep Him Alive

31/01/2012 19:47 | Updated 22 May 2015
Ben Norris and his mother Sanchia: The baby whose mum has to tickle his feet every night to keep him aliveWorldwide Features

This is the baby who is kept alive by his mother tickling the soles of his feet. Benn Norris stops breathing several times in the night and his mother Sanchia Norris has to tickle him to kickstart his breathing again.

It may not be medical technology, but it is the only way of keeping brave Benn alive.

Sanchia, 41, a chartered tax advisor, says: "Benn can stop breathing several times each night, and when he does a monitor alarm goes off.

"I have to rush into the bedroom and stimulate him in some way to wake him up which kickstarts him into breathing again.

"I either tickle him on the soles of his feet, or under his chin and on his stomach. It is enough to start him breathing again.


It is stressful when he stops breathing so often, but there is nothing that can be done for him to cure it. I keep him alive by tickling him to start him breathing again each time.


Benn suffers from apnea, one of the most common problems affecting premature babies. It causes breathing to stop for 20 seconds or more when they are asleep and occurs when a baby's muscles and nervous system are not fully developed at birth.

Sanchia, who lives in Fen Drayton, Cambridgeshire, was delighted when she discovered she was pregnant and the pregnancy went smoothly until 24 weeks.

But at a routine check up at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridge Sanchia was given the terrifying news that she had actually gone into premature labour.

Doctors battled to try and stop her labour and gave her steroid injections to boost her baby's lungs. Doctors told her it was unlikely her baby would survive.

She was transferred to the Rosie maternity wing at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and managed to hold on for five days before giving birth to son Benn in November last year, weighing a tiny 1lb 12 oz.

Sanchia says: "I didn't see him for six hours as he was taken straight down to intensive care. When I finally went to see him I was shocked at how tiny he was. He was the smallest baby I had ever seen.

The baby whose mum has to tickle his feet every night to keep him aliveWorldwide Features

"He was smaller than the length of my hand - he looked like a little sparrow which had just fallen out of its nest.

"He couldn't breathe as his lungs were too small, he had a large hole in his heart which should have closed at birth but because he was so premature it hadn't done.

"And he'd also had a huge brain haemorrhage. The doctors told me that it was extremely unlikely that he would survive."

The doctors placed Benn in a special cooling bag to bring down his body temperature in the hope that it would help reduce brain damage.

The baby whose mum has to tickle his feet every night to keep him aliveWorldwide Features

But over the next few days he deteriorated further. He had more bleeding on the brain and the hole in his heart worsened. He had several blood transfusions to try and keep him alive.

Sanchia says: "The machines around him were constantly bleeping. The doctors asked me if I wanted to have him baptised, which I did.


They didn't expect him to survive, but I never gave up on him. Instinctively I knew that he was a little fighter and he would pull through.


Doctors gave Benn medication to try and close the hole in his heart, but it caused a massive haemorrhage in his lungs so they had to stop.

But then on New Years Day, five weeks after his birth, they made an amazing discovery. The heart had closed by itself. And brain scans revealed that the bleeding on his brain had also reduced.

Sanchia says: "That was the moment when Benn really turned a corner. No one had expected him to survive up to this point. The doctors told me that they couldn't promised anything, but there was a good chance now that Benn would survive and be able to come home. It was the most amazing news."

Even though Benn continued to make progress, he suffered from constant episodes where he would stop breathing whilst he was asleep.

When he was allowed home after 18 weeks in hospital, he was still suffering from the episodes and he had a monitor alarm attached to him at all times, and then to his cot mattress which sounded an alarm when he stopped breathing.

Sanchia says: "It was the most amazing thing in the world when I could finally bring him home. His brain scans had showed his brain was now normal and his heart was fine."

Nearly one year on Benn is a happy, healthy little boy but he still stops breathing several times every night - and were it not for his devoted mum's care he would have died many times over.

She says: "One night he stopped breathing 23 times and I had to keep tickling him each time to make him start breathing again.

"It is exhausting because I'm constantly listening out for his alarm to go off, and then I jump out of bed and tickle him. If he's soundly asleep I sometimes have to shout to wake him up too.

"The doctors hope he will grow out of it. He's done amazingly well considering all the things that were wrong with him.

The baby whose mum has to tickle his feet every night to keep him aliveWorldwide Features

"He is developing normally for his age, and I'm very proud of him.

Miss Norris is now helping to raise funds for the Rosie Campaign, which hopes to extend the maternity wing at Addenbrookes Hospital.

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