A Derry family is facing a Christmas many miles away from home as their four month old baby recovers from his second major heart surgery.
Louise Borland, her partner and the rest of her children will be spending Christmas in a Dublin hotel as baby Joey is in the intensive care unit of Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
Joey and his twin sister Jodie-Lee
The baby, who has a twin sister Jodie-Lee, was born with congenital heart disease and had his first surgery when he was just two days old.
Joey’s recovery time meant that in his short life so far he has only spent a couple of weeks in his Waterside home with the rest of his family.
Mum Louise said she found out Joey had a heart condition during her pregnancy.
“At my 20 week scan I found out that Joey had a heart defect. His wee heart was essentially back to front and I was told he would need surgery almost immediately to correct this.”
Joey and his sister were born two weeks early and despite Louise’s fears Joey was a healthy weight.
“I was prepared to have them very early and was sitting with my hospital bag packed from 30 weeks. I was also expecting these wee tiny babies but Joey was 6lb 11oz and Jodie-Lee was 4lb 11oz.”
Jodie-Lee was sent to the neo-natal unit, where she remained for nine days because of her size and low blood sugars. Meanwhile, Joey was sent to Dublin and had his first, seven hour long surgery.
“He was in surgery for hours and when they opened up there were cords missing from his heart and a cluster of cords that he shouldn’t have had. Afterwards the surgeons told us he had a narrow artery, but was too young to have it fixed as he would die in theatre.
“We thought it would be years down the line before that would need to be operated on.”
Baby Joey remained in Dublin for a month after the first surgery before being transferred to Belfast and then Altnagelvin for a further three weeks.
Joey continued to have regular heart scans and it became apparent that the surgery was necessary now.
The four-month-old underwent a second, six hour procedure earlier this week. The surgery went well, but Joey will remain in ICU in Dublin for a few weeks.
“To look at him you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong,” Louise said. “Even before he was going for his surgery he was laughing and carrying on as I was telling him to be good for mammy.”
Louise had good reason for her words of encouragement, as he had to be resuscitated during a less serious procedure last week.
“The medical teams have always told us his heart function was really good. Thankfully once they started to resuscitate him he came straight round.”
Louise said the past few months have been a ‘nightmare’ as the family have been separated.
Even during the few precious weeks they were together they had to be extremely careful that Joey did not get sick, but all the family wanted to do was “cuddle him and spoil him.”
The family are currently being put up in a Dublin hotel by the Belfast Trust, but will have to move to another hotel this weekend as the one they have been staying in closes for Christmas.
“With it being Christmas I am stressing about the other kids,” Louise said. “It doesn’t matter how old they are you always want to make it special. With us moving hotels at the minute I don’t even know where the kids will be having their wee Christmas dinner.”
Louise’s friend has set up a fundraising page to assist the family at this difficult time. To donate visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/wee-joeys-heart-surgery-journey-to-dublin