Jade McCauley is a happy and energetic little girl and she’s considered a “miracle” baby by her devoted mum, Kerry.
And the word ‘miracle’ is no exaggeration given that doctors gave Jade just a five per cent chance of survival when she was born in March, 2015 weighing only 1 lb in weight.
Kerry went into labour at 27 weeks into her pregnancy and then faced an agonising wait to see if her daughter would pull through,
Since that day three years ago, the charity ‘TinyLife’ has been a constant feature in both Kerry and Jade’s lives. Even now, Kerry attends monthly support meetings and has a regular visit at her home from a TinyLife volunteer.
“It was really, really scary at the time just how tiny Jade actually was,” recalls Kerry.
“She was in the neo-natal High Dependency Unit and her older sister couldn’t see her, so to try and explain how small she was, we took a 30 centimetres ruler from her sister’s pencil case and marked out the 27 and a half centimetres for her.
“When we were talking about Jade’s weight, she was 730 grams, about the weight of a bag of sugar.
“Doctors refused to show me the neo-natal unit initially because they were convinced that she wouldn’t make it.
“She was one month old before I was even allowed to hold her, and when I was able to hold her against my chest that first time, I had to hand her back after 30 seconds. It was such a tough time but the one thing I remember is how important it was having that support from Tiny Life,” notes Kerry, who lives in Amelia Court.
“I was exhausted, physically and mentally at the time,” she continued. “Lynn Patterson, the TinyLife Family Support Worker attached to Altnagelvin hospital, was really helpful. It was invaluable to have someone to talk to about the worries I was having regarding Jade and I was struggling to hold everything together with having an older child at home. Jade had to spend quite a considerable amount of time in the Royal Victoria Hospital, in Belfast and in Altnagelvin, with frequent re-admissions. The staff in both hospitals were amazing.”
After spending four months and six days in hospital. Jade was discharged on July 29, 2015, on her mother Kerry’s birthday.
“It was a pretty special birthday present that year,” she recalled, although she admits it was daunting taking her daughter home for the first time.
“I was definitely afraid about taking her home. For months she’d been looked after and monitored by specialist doctors and nurses and then all of a sudden, I had her out with me. It was great; but it was scary, too. I remember a couple of other babies got home that day as well. I just started crying with the fear of taking her home.”
It was at this point that the support from TinyLife really helped, smiled Kerry.
“When Jade finally came home I was filled with anxiety and worry as I had an older child to look after as well. I felt overwhelmed. TinyLife stayed in touch with me throughout and Lynn informed me that TinyLife had volunteers who came out to the home to help parents out. I was a bit reluctant at first, but thought I’d give this service a go and I’m so glad I did. My volunteer has almost become part of the family! What a relief it was to know that I could go and have a bath or go and get some shopping without having to bring Jade out of the house. Jade’s immune system was, and is very low, and she easily catches infections.”
As well as the volunteering service, Kerry also attends the monthly TinyLife support group at the Playshed on Trench Road.
“The support groups are amazing,” says Kerry. “It’s like a community of parents who all have experience with having had babies who were born prematurely. We can all ask one another questions and we can support each other. I think since Jade’s been born I’ve only ever missed two meetings. They are so important. Throughout Jade’s life, I can’t thank TinyLife enough for the support they’ve given us.”
TinyLife is running a ‘Johnny Cash’ night in the Drummond Hotel, Ballykelly, tonight (Friday), at 7.30pm. TinyLife Head of Fundraising and Communications, Val Cromie is encouraging people to come along to the concert and explains the importance of the services the charity provides.
“Bringing home a premature baby can be unnerving,” said Val. “It is TinyLife’s mission to be there every step of the way for parents at this most vulnerable time. Aside of the practicalities, we strive to find new ways forward to make prematurity less prevalent. That is why our fundraising activities are of such importance. If anyone would like to give something back, organise an event of their own or volunteer with TinyLife we would love to hear from them.”
Derry mum of two, Kerry, is also planning her own fundraising event in the summer, as she explains.
“TinyLife is a wonderful charity which does fantastic work and it is for this reason that myself and a friend who also had a premature baby, have decided to run a Fun Day, in the Shantallow Community Centre, on Saturday June 23 from 11 am to 2 pm. Hopefully this will raise some, much needed, funds for TinyLife,” she adds.
For more information on TinyLife, vist www.tinylife.org.uk