A Co Armagh family say they are counting their blessings as they prepare to celebrate a very special milestone.
Pádraig Thompson was born at just 26 weeks, weighing 424 grams. His family were given little hope he would survive, but 12 months on, he is about to turn 1, coinciding with World Prematurity Day.
His Mum Lisa, who is herself a neonatal nurse, said she never expected to deliver so soon.
“It was very different being on the other side. It is not what you expect, working on the other side of it. You think it won’t happen to you. It is hard to take off your nurse hat and just be Mum. You do know things, which can be good, but sometimes it can be difficult.”
While babies born early require lots of support, Pádraig’s chances of survival decreased because of his smaller size. His parents waited by his bedside for nearly four months.
His Dad, James, said it was a difficult time for the family, who also have a young daughter, three-year old Kacie.
“When they were checking his heartbeat every few hours they told us to be prepared as they might not be a heartbeat on the next check, it was tough.
Pádraig spent 110 days in hospital, with his family at his bedside.
He endured 15 blood transfusions, several infections and surgery in the months that followed. As his progressed continued, soon his parents prepared to bring him home.
“Watching him make progress after his birth became a hope. We didn’t have much hope before he was born. We weren’t given much hope. For him to make it and still be here is a blessing.”
With his weight now 4lbs, Pádraig was discharged on 10 March 2020, two weeks before lockdown, meaning weeks of self-isolation would follow.
“We were petrified he would get Covid”
The family made the decision to self-isolate at their home near Lurgan for several weeks, with little to no contact with family and friends, due to the pandemic.
Lisa said: “It took then choice out of our hands. We stayed in the house and no one was allowed to meet him. We waited four months to show him off but no one could meet him.”
Between months on the neonatal ward followed by lockdown, Pádraig has faced a remarkable 2020, but his parents are positive for the future.
Pádraig is here and it’s made 2020 the best for us.
As the family prepare to celebrate Pádraig’s first birthday, which coincidently falls on World Prematurity Day, they want anyone who has faced stress this year, to have hope.
“There are so many ups and downs from the minute you have your baby, whether it is early or at term. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, you will get there together. Just look at Pádraig, there is hope,” said Lisa.
TinyLife estimate around 6 babies are born too early in Northern Ireland every day. The charity say it helps 2000 babies every year who are born too soon, too small or too sick. They want everyone to spare a thought for families going through the often- fraught journey associated with a premature birth during a pandemic .
Head of Fundraising and Communications, Val Cromie, said: “All the usual uncertainties are still there at this understandably very stressful time for parents. Covid has added extra strain into the system. However, TinyLife is still here to provide practical advice, emotional support and to give a helping hand to families who have a baby in a neonatal intensive care unit, with their network of Family Support professionals providing online one to one support, baby massage classes, Tinygym and family activity groups. Our breast pump loan service continues to be in demand."
This charity’s PREMvember campaign to celebrate World Prematurity Day on 17 November, will, like most other organised events, start online with fundraising an option at home. There are many activities planned including a virtual art exhibition as well as fitness challenges for all the family.
Video report by Natasha Millar: