Parents get in gear for premature baby charity

Dad Geoff gets in gear for the charity cycle with a little help from son Mark.
Dad Geoff gets in gear for the charity cycle with a little help from son Mark.

A MAGHERAFELT couple whose son was born weighing just over 1lb have launched a fundraising initiative to benefit a premature baby charity.

Little Mark was born To Geoff and Catriona Davis at 27 weeks on April 15, 2010 in Antrim Area Hospital, weighing just 1lb 1oz and the couple were told that it was unlikely he would survive.

Now two years on, Mark continues to make progress following a series of operations and the Davis family has decided to fundraise for Tinylife, a premature and vulnerable baby charity, which supported them during this traumatic period.

Dad Geoff will be cycling around Northern Ireland, starting in Magherafelt on Saturday (July 14) and finishing on Monday (July 16) in a bid to reach their target of around £1200.

Mark was born by emergency Caesarean section after Catriona went for a glucose tolerance test, given the family history of diabetes.

“I didn’t know but apparently I had severe pre-eclampsia and didn’t have any symptoms or anything,” Catriona explained, “So they took me for an emergency section. He was taken straight to the Neonatal Unit, then transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital. I was oblivious to how ill I was so Geoff’s time was divided between being with Mark and me. He was told Mark was not expected to survive and just to take it hour by hour.”

The following day Catriona was well enough to travel to the Royal to see Mark.

“He was a red raw bundle,” she recalled. “We weren’t allowed to touch him. He was taking 0.1ml of milk and as his weight steadily increased, so too did his feed.”

At three weeks, the parents were finally allowed to hold their son and he began to progress slowly in the Royal.

He was then transferred back to Antrim’s Neonatal Unit where he stayed until he was 15 weeks old, weighing 4lb.

“I was feeding him myself so I had to travel back and forth. The Tinylife staff, who are parents of premature babies, came in and gave us all the help and support we needed. So now, we’ve decided to give something back.

“We’ve been so busy over the past few years and Mark has had three operations, including one recently in Sheffield, that it’s only now we are getting round to it.”

And as an added bonus Mark now has a little brother Matthew to keep him company. Matthew is six-months-old and according to Catriona ‘Mark loves him to bits.’

Completing a circuit of 350 miles around Northern Ireland, Geoff, a keen cyclist, will be pedalling from Magherafelt to Omagh, then on to Enniskillen, Newcastle, Belfast, and up the north coast toward Londonderry.

If anyone wants to support this initiative they are asked to visit the family’s Just Giving page -

TinyLife is Northern Ireland’s premature and vulnerable baby charity, dedicated to reducing premature birth, illness, disability and death in babies born here. Last year over 1800 babies were born prematurely in the Province. TinyLife also offers practical and emotional support to ensure that parents of premature and ill babies get all the help they need.