Meet Freddie - A Heart Centre Hero
“The travel incubator is huge so we couldn’t travel in the ambulance with our baby. I remember that journey up to Dublin. I didn’t know what to say to Freddie’s dad, Padraig, he was so upset. When we reached the hospital we saw the ambulance with Freddie in it drive by. My heart stopped because the sirens were going off. Even now the noise of the sirens still get me.
We didn’t know before Freddie was born that he had a heart condition. Two days after his birth in Kilkenny we had our bags packed and we were ready to go home from the hospital. The nurse was checking his oxygen levels before we went and put the little rubber band around his foot. She couldn’t get a reading on Freddie but we didn’t panic at all at that stage. The nurse took him to another machine and said she’d get a specialist to look at him. When the specialist came to talk to us our world fell apart. He said there was something wrong with Freddie’s heart and they couldn’t help him in Kilkenny. He needed to go straight to Crumlin.
The day passed by in such a haze while we waited. Dr Orla Franklin sat down and told us what was wrong with our baby. He had hypoplastic right heart syndrome, a serious heart condition. Dr Franklin spent ages talking to us and one thing that stuck out clearly was when she told us that we had a long road ahead, but that Crumlin Heart Centre was the best place to be. I knew my baby was in safe hands and they would do whatever it takes to help him.
Freddie had his first open heart surgery when he was just 10 days old and it went well. We brought him home for the first time ever one week later. Our aim after this was to build him up for his second surgery at six months old. He hit all his milestones and we got through the second surgery. After that, we had a two year gap before his third surgery. The hospital put us in contact with the hospital psychologist who taught me how to speak to Freddie and tell him why I had to leave him in the hospital. The psychologist was a Godsend! She helped me explain to my eldest son, Harry, why I wasn’t there. He was at home in Carlow and started his first year in big school. It was hard on him to be away from his mother, especially because he was still so young himself. It was so hard on all of us.
I was feeding Freddie after his third surgery when he had a seizure. I didn’t know what to do or how to help him, it was awful to watch, but the staff were with him immediately and he was OK. One week later the physio was pushing Freddie to walk and get moving. She was brilliant. She was determined to get him out before Christmas. The build up to Christmas in the hospital was very special. Everyone was so good to Freddie and Harry. Santa came to visit them both. They got to meet Robbie Keane and Johnny Sexton too. They were just over the moon when they saw their heroes – I honestly think Freddie forgot that he was sick when he got to shake hands with Robbie and Johnny. Then, after an emotional rollercoaster journey, I felt like everything finally fell into place because on Christmas Eve our family left the hospital and we went home together. It was one of the best days ever!
Freddie started school in September and is the happiest little man. The day we heard the news about his heart condition our world fell apart, but I want other parents to know that Crumlin will do the very best for your child. I couldn’t have imagined reaching this point with Freddie heading off to school. But we’re here and it’s the best feeling.
I'll be forever grateful for the hospital and I try to fundraise for them when I can. With the support of our amazing friends and family we’ve done two mini marathons for Crumlin since Freddie was born and raised over €4,000. Last year Freddie brought up loads of Christmas presents for the children on the ward. He wanted them to feel as special as he did when he was in hospital over Christmas. He’s so thoughtful and considerate, for such a young child. Our family and friends got us through this tough journey and we couldn’t be more grateful to them and to the hospital for being there for us and our precious boy. We can never repay the people in the hospital for being there when we needed them most, but we can try give back as much as we can. We’re so grateful.”
– Niamh Kenny, mother of Freddie and Harry.