“You just never know if they’re going to make it” – This is the reality that families of premature babies live with. They spend their days, weeks and months watching their children fight for their lives and hoping that for every exhale they take, another inhale will follow. Colman O’Driscoll, National Director of Mental Health at Medibank, experienced such journey when his son Rory came into the world three months before his due date.
“At 28 weeks, a baby should be about 1.1kg but Rory was only 685g, which made it very risky for him in terms of surviving. A lot of things can and do go wrong with premature babies. Even having a small infection can be life-threatening, it’s all very scary.”
Little Rory came into the world 3 months early weighing a mere 685 grams.
Having premature babies is a whole different journey to having babies who aren’t. The goal is always to carry the baby to full-term or to a stage where it’s safe enough for them to be born but sometimes things don’t always go according to plan. At times there are threats to the baby’s health and as a result, they enter the world earlier than expected. Naturally, when this happens, families become stressed and concerned for the well-being of their children. Colman says the key to overcoming the worries that come with having babies earlier than ideal is to just take it one day at a time.
“If you think too much about what might happen tomorrow or the next day, or in 2-3 years’ time, it can become really overwhelming. You have to learn to celebrate each milestone and achievement. Rory took six weeks to reach a kilogram in weight so we celebrated that by buying a kilogram of cake for the unit. You just have to be thankful that they’re there.”
The key to getting through the toughest of times was love, devotion and celebrating each milestone and achievement.
During the first three years, premature children technically have two birthdays that they celebrate due to being born earlier than their expected due date. One is the celebration of the day they came into the world while the other celebrates milestones they reach.
“They have their birth date birthday and their corrected birthday. Rory missed out on three months of growth and development in the womb so it’s not fair to measure him against full-term babies who were born at the same time.”
Colman and his wife took each day as they came, continually by Rory’s side.
Next month, Colman will be heading to the USA to run the Chicago Marathon on the 8th October raising funds for Running for Premature Babies (RFPB). RFPB is an organisation set up by a couple, Sophie and Ash, whose triplet boys were born prematurely at the Royal Hospital for Women but sadly passed away soon after. RFPB was first established 11 years ago when Sophie and Ash took on the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon and received overwhelming support.
“They raised enough money to buy one humidity crib for the unit and received such support that they decided to it again the next year and the year after. That’s really how RFPB was born. It has been an amazing way to honour the memory of their three little boys while raising money to make sure that other premature babies are given a better chance of survival.”
Colman regularly trains and participates in marathons, raising funds for premature babies.
Colman says that throughout his family’s journey, there have been many important lessons that they have learned. These lessons are what continues to help them move forward and live fully.
“It teaches you what’s important in life, the value of it and how precious it is. When you see an infant like that, who is so small but yet so determined to survive, it really helps you understand how delicate life is. Everybody gets tied up in their day to day lives but there are much more important things we should be dedicating our time and energy to.”
Thanks to the wonderful care Rory received in the NICU at the Royal Hospital for Women, he overcame the many challenges faced.
Today, Rory is a healthy, bubbly and very energetic 3-year-old who is thriving every single day and continuing to reach milestones. Colman has been in the health industry for the past 20 years and says that after experiencing first-hand the importance of healthcare for his little man, it was hard not to become even more passionate about the field that literally saves lives. Luckily with Medibank, he is able to express this passion through his role as a Clinical Director and in return, receive support from the company in his mission with Running For Premature Babies to give every precious newborn a chance at life.
To support Colman in the Chicago Marathon and raise funds for premature babies, click here.