IN a year of perspective, Ben Mee gets the most emotional of reminders every time he looks into the eyes of his new baby daughter.
In May, as Burnley returned to training after the first lockdown, football was the last thing on the skipper’s mind.
Ben Mee opened up on his premature baby ordeal this summer
As his team-mates began to get back to some form of normality, Mee and wife Sarah were going through an unimaginable trauma.
Their second child, due in September, had been born the previous day — just 24 weeks into the pregnancy and doctors at Manchester’s St Mary’s hospital made the situation crystal clear.
Baby Olive weighed only 1lb 2oz, and survival was far from guaranteed. In the midst of the pandemic, it was an even more horrific nightmare.
Fortunately there was to be a happy ending, as mini Mee is now home with the family.
Now, as Ben leads the battle on the field — the Clarets are at Arsenal today — the biggest fight of all has been won. Yet for a while it was far from guaranteed.
He admitted: “Three weeks from the birth we had a feeling she would probably come early because there were some difficulties. She was due in September, but born in May.
“We just wanted to get as far into the pregnancy as possible to give Olive the best chance to survive basically.
“I was going to hospital every day, because Sarah was in there before the birth and it was obviously made more difficult with the pandemic. It was tough with all the restrictions and guidelines and of course a little girl in the midst of it.
Bee Mee and wife Sarah were going through unimaginable trauma during the summer
“Just a case of trying to get her and my family through it.
“Luckily we got to a point where the doctors could do their work and did their best for us. Thankfully she’s doing really well now. She is on oxygen but we’d have taken that at the beginning.
“At first I wasn’t even allowed to go in. They relaxed the restrictions a bit and I could see my wife but then with the baby we had to see her separately for the first six weeks or so.”
Ironically Olive went home for the first time one day before she was due to be born had the pregnancy gone full term — and meeting brother Jaxon meant there was not a dry eye in the house.
Mee added: “It was amazing to have her back, and my son met her for the first time because he’d not been able to see her. She’s met some of the family from distance, it’s been mad.
“When we got told we were able to bring her home that was fantastic in itself. It was a big moment and bringing her to meet Jaxon was a very emotional day.”
Ben Mee takes his Burnley side to Arsenal on Sunday nightCredit: Reuters
How Mee stayed focused on his football during those early weeks when Olive was in hospital is amazing in itself.
Yet Burnley’s trip to the Etihad in June, their first after the lockdown, actually offered the chance to speak to someone who had been through the same ordeal.
Manchester City David Silva’s son Mateo was born after only 25 weeks, and the Spaniard was able to offer some welcome words of comfort.
It is a game remembered for Mee’s post-match condemnation of the Burnley fans who flew a White Lives Matter banner over the stadium. To him, it was a night of reassurance.
He said: “I didn’t know many people who had been through it so you want a positive story, because you never know what’s going to happen, and David was reassuring.
“Mateo was two years old and a normal young boy and that was nice to hear. It was very good to speak to him at that time, because Olive was in hospital about ten minutes away from the stadium.
“Football-wise, those 90 minutes on the pitch and training were a massive relief, especially at a time when you can’t see your friends and family.”
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