The Galway parents of a baby born four months early are hoping to raise awareness and understanding surrounding premature birth this November, Prematurity Awareness Month.
Kiara and Tony Keary’s first-born son Lachlan was born in September 2014 weighing just 720 grams.
The expectant mum went into spontaneous labour at 24 weeks. The couple, who live in Loughrea, had originally been booked into Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, however on the day Kiara was transferred by ambulance to National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, giving birth to Lachlan that same evening.
“It was all very, very quick,” she said. “You’re just thrown into this world and it’s very daunting.”
It was a difficult start in life for baby Lachlan, who spent 14 weeks in hospital in Dublin, before being transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Galway before Christmas, where he stayed until the following March.
Lachlan, who turned two in September, is under the early intervention team in Loughrea and is developing in line with other two-year-olds. “Lachlan’s speech and language and communication is unbelievable for his age. He’s just incredible, he’s so clever and he’s very much at the standard for a typical two-year-old,” said Kiara.
“At the moment his only area that he does have to work at is his gross motor skills. He’s not walking just yet but he’s showing all the signs that he will walk – he’s doing everything that he should be but he does see a physio regularly and he is part of that team but they can’t believe how well he’s doing really.”
However, Kiara says they are “extremely, extremely lucky” that Lachlan doesn’t have any severe or life-threatening conditions.
“We’re just grateful that all we have to contend with is a little bit of physio. It’s not the end of the world but for the foreseeable future he will have to see his consultant and he will see his physio and those sorts of things.”
She says the hardest thing about having a premature baby is “not knowing what the outcome will be”. But she would “go through it all again, what we went through with Lachlan, to have Lachlan, because he just is incredible”.
1 in 16 babies in Ireland are born prematurely and Kiara believes it is important to create awareness. For anyone going through something similar to Kiara and Tony, her advice is to seek support within the NICU.
“You need the nurses, you need the doctors, but more importantly I actually think you need the other parents that are going through the exact same thing as you. They’re the only people that will ever understand what you’re actually going through.”
Kiara and Tony have also been involved in fundraising, last year raising €11,000 through a local fundraiser in Loughrea. They donated half of the money to Holles Street for a Parents’ Room and the other half to UHG. She says the money raised is testament to the support of the community in Loughrea.
The National Maternity Hospital Foundation is holding a fundraising campaign throughout November, to raise funds to support services for parents of babies in the NICU at Holles Street. They are asking supporters and families to host an event in their town to raise funds for the NMH Foundation. For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nmhfoundation.ie