Early Arrival Puts Couple's Plans for New Life on Hold

Times Staff Writer

By all rights, Steven Finlay shouldn't even be born yet.

His mother and father, Diane and David Finlay, were on their way last month from England to Sydney, Australia, where they hoped to start a new life for themselves, their 3-year-old son, Michael, and their still-unborn child, who was due to arrive on April 17.

They had stopped in Southern California for a few days and had planned to spend a week in Hawaii as well before they continued on to join Diane's mother, who lives in Sydney.

First Pains of Labor

Steven had other plans. On Feb. 4, after spending the day at Disneyland, Diane--then 30 weeks pregnant--was asleep in her motel room when she felt the first pains of labor. She was rushed to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where doctors tried to halt the birth. But there was no stopping Steven: he left the womb for the world 10 weeks ahead of schedule, a 3-pound American citizen born to a couple from England on their way to Australia.

Then things started to get complicated.

While hooked up to a respirator in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, Steven dropped nearly a pound before he began to get stronger. He gained weight and made it out of intensive care, only to develop stomach problems and be transferred back in.

Out of Intensive Care

About three weeks ago, he was moved back out of intensive care, and he now weighs a relatively healthy 4 pounds, 1 ounce, his mother said Sunday.

And he has been running up quite a nice little hospital bill as well--at the rate of about $1,500 a day.

The Finlay's had paid 119 British pounds--or about $198--for an insurance policy with Lloyds of London to cover them during their trip. But when the hospital contacted the company about paying the hospital bill for mother and son, Lloyd's was not forthcoming, hospital officials said.

"Initially they said the baby was not covered," said Susana Trudell, transport coordinator for the hospital's infant special care unit. "Then they said they'd make a decision after they received copies of medical forms. . . . Well, they have those, and they're still not cooperating."

Trudell says the baby could have been released a week ago and flown to Australia with her mother, a doctor, a nurse and a respiratory therapist if the insurance company had agreed to pay the bill, which is approaching $90,000.

And if Lloyd's refuses to pay the bill?

"Then the parents will be responsible," said Trudell. "We have collection agencies that go overseas."

'Dreadul Nightmare'

If that sounds cold-hearted, it has been Trudell and nurses at the hospital to whom Finlay has turned for support throughout the ordeal--"a dreadful nightmare," is how she describes it.

"Having your baby here like this, worrying about him, the insurance . . . we know how expensive it is," Finlay said Sunday, her voice dropping off in frustration and fatigue as she sat outside the hospital's special infant care unit.

Since she got out of the hospital, Finlay has been staying in San Clemente with Joyce Roberts, a teaching nurse at Saddleback College who heard about the Finlays' plight from some of her nursing students and offered to help.

David Finlay, who drove a taxi for a living when they lived in Ilford, in Essex County, has flown on to Sydney with Michael to begin looking for a job and help the boy adjust to his new life. Diane, an Australian citizen, ran a typing pool back in England.

"If it wasn't for the people we've met here, I don't know how I would've gotten through this," Diane said, adding that the couple's financial resources already have been exhausted.

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