Most babies are born at Bath's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit because they are premature - but when Laura Hardick arrived four days late she still desperately needed its life saving care.

Parents Tracey Attenborough and Chris Hardick, 40, of Coniston Close, Chippenham, are backing a £4.5 million appeal to build a bigger ward to care for desperately ill babies like Laura at the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

Ms Attenborough said: "When Laura was born she had undiagnosed Down's Syndrome. We were in shock frankly, so one of the nurses said would we like them to feed her.

The nurse came back later saying Laura had gone blue and her oesophagus had crushed her windpipe. It was lucky really they offered to feed her."

Laura spent three weeks and four days in the NICU unit but, because so many other babies needed to be cared for in the tiny ward, her parents were told they would have to move her to the children's ward.

"We were terrified when they had to move her," said Ms Attenborough. "Nothing against the staff in the children's ward, but you're worried there isn't the special attention your baby needs."

Mr Hardick and Ms Attenborough have endless praise for the care of the NICU staff, but say its cramped conditions leave little room for privacy.

Ms Attenborough said: "The staff go above and beyond the call of duty. They perform miracles and they give these babies life.

"But there were times when parents were having uncomfortable conversations with the doctors and there's just no privacy."

Laura, who has a five-year-old brother Matthew, is now 11 months old and, although she still has two minor holes in her heart, is doing well.

Ms Attenborough said: "Everyone who meets her comments on what a beautiful little girls she is."

Friend Natalie Hill is running the Bristol Half Marathon in September for the NICU appeal and will have an image of Laura's face on her T-shirt.

For more details about the appeal go to: