Christmas fundraiser to say thanks to baby Odhrán’s ‘real life super heroes’

The parents of a little boy, who became seriously ill after his birth, are to honour the hospital staff who cared for their baby after the ‘best day’ of their lives became the worst.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 11:00 am
A happy, healthy baby Odhrán pictured recently.

Following a ‘great’ pregnancy, Annemarie and Paddy Johnston were excited to meet their baby, who was born at 00.54am on June 10 by emergency C section, weighing 8lbs 4oz.

But the couple’s joy soon turned to fear, when they learned baby Odhrán had swallowed and inhaled meconium at birth. This meant he had a high risk of infection and his lungs didn’t work properly.

As a result, their baby boy developed Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in the Newborn (PPHN), as well as Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. A Neonatal transport team travelled to Letterkenny University Hospital to provide support and get Odhrán ready for transfer to Coombe Hospital in Dublin.

Odhrán pictured in hospital with his father Paddy.

However, on the ambulance journey, Odhrán took two bleeds/clots on his lung and had to return to Letterkenny, where it was decided he’d need to be airlifted to Dublin.

Once he reached the Coombe Hospital, which had more specialist equipment, Odhrán was placed on a high frequency ventilator. He was also given nitric oxide treatment and an antibiotic drip. The ventilator delivered around 600 ‘breaths’ per minute. Annemarie told the ‘Journal’ it was ‘horrible’ watching their ‘lifeless’ newborn baby ‘vibrating in an incubator and covered with wires and tubes.’

“He was sedated with a high dose of morphine, so he couldn’t make a sound or move. The nitric oxide was given to expand the cells in the lungs to help deliver as much oxygen as possible to the blood and the antibiotics were to fight infection from the meconium.’

She told how it was ‘strange’ being in the hospital as all the other babies had been born prematurely and one little one weighed only 400g.

“Odhrán was the only full term baby there weighing 8lbs 4oz at birth, and to be told by the neonatologist that although Odhrán was the biggest baby in his room, he was the sickest - to hear that news was just awful.”

As each day went on, Odhrán began to improve and on day six - Father’s Day - he was moved from the high frequency ventilator to a normal ventilator, which Annemarie described as ‘great.’

“ Our baby wasn’t vibrating in a machine anymore and his wee room was so peaceful without the noise of the high frequency ventilator and also the nitric oxide had been reduced dramatically. It was the best first Father’s Day present for Paddy.”

On day nine, the nitric oxide treatment ceased and his parents got to hold him for the first time in what was an ‘emotional and magical’ moment. They finally knew he was going to be ok. As Odhrán got stronger, he was transferred back to NICU in Letterkenny hospital, where he spent another two weeks, learning to be bottle fed and slowly weaned off morphine. He also learned to breathe by himself without the need for low flow oxygen.

Annemarie said she and Paddy are ‘so grateful’ to NICU and Maternity Unit in the Coombe, which even kept her on as a ‘lodger’ after she’d been discharged, just so she could be close to her son.

“We can’t thank them enough for the care, hard work and dedication they had for all of us, they are just like real life superheroes and they couldn’t have done enough for us, making sure that Paddy had accommodation sorted in Dublin for our time in there and telling us we could come and visit Odhrán any time day or night .”

They are also very grateful to the NICU and maternity in Letterkenny. “We cannot thank them enough, they have the most amazing staff,” said Annemarie.

Odhrán is now six months old and ‘has never looked back since.’ He has had no health setbacks and is ‘such a happy, healthy and content wee man.’

To say thank you to those who helped him, The Letterkenny Babies Facebook page administrators (one of whom, Edel McElhinney, is a family friend) are holding their annual Christmas Jumper party on behalf of Odhrán to raise money for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in the Coombe, Dublin.

The party takes place this Sunday, December 8 in Letterkenny Community Centre 3pm – 6pm.

All families are welcome to enjoy Christmas celebrations with a giant bouncy castle, music from DJ Vinny, Art and Soul by Lynnette face painting, elves to play with the kids, sweets and so much more. Plus, there will be a quiet room with Christmas stories, arts and crafts. Annemarie said she and Paddy are ‘delighted’ the proceeds will be donated to the Coombe on behalf of baby Odhrán, ‘to show how much we appreciated their hard work and dedication.’

Annemarie also raised over €1,000 for the Coombe in July as a birthday fundraiser through Facebook.“The response was phenomenal, and we cannot thank everyone enough who donated.”

Cost of entry to the party will be €5 per child and one euro for every subsequent child thereafter – €6 for two, €7 for three, etc.

There will also be donation buckets for the face painting and treat stands and a raffle with great prizes donated by local businesses.