miracle recovery | 

Father of boy (7) who nearly died after getting Covid thought he was coming home 'in a coffin'

'I will never, ever forget looking at my wee man lying there lifeless, all the machines and tubes and being told he probably wouldn't make it'
Shay Crossan (7) with his mum and dad, Naomi and Rusty and sisters Sophia, (8), left and Zarrah (10).

Shay Crossan (7) with his mum and dad, Naomi and Rusty and sisters Sophia, (8), left and Zarrah (10).

Paula Mackin

Shay Crossan is lucky to be alive.

The Strabane youngster contracted Covid yet weeks later he was fighting for his life after developing Paediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS), a disease linked to the virus that affects only children.

His distraught parents were told to prepare for the worst as his internal organs began to shut down but the plucky six-year-old pulled through and is now back at home in Strabane in the loving arms of his family.

Last week he was playing football and scored the winning goal, proving he is back on top form.

Dad Rusty says he thinks he will never come to terms with how close he came to losing his only son earlier this year and admits recalling those painful weeks in intensive care still brings tears to his eyes.

"I find it very emotional to talk about. I will never, ever forget looking at my wee man lying there lifeless, all the tubes and machines and being told he probably wouldn't make it," Shay told Sunday World this week.

"I couldn't bear the thought of taking him home in a coffin.

Shay Crossan

Shay Crossan

"I told them if he's coming home he will be coming with me and his mummy and we will be stopping for a Happy Meal on the way.

"I remember looking at him and thinking, you can't take him from me, he's only a weean.

"But thank God he pulled through despite all the odds being stacked against him. He's home now where he belongs with his sisters and me and his mum Naomi."

PIMS, which causes inflammation throughout the entire body, only affects 0.5 per cent of children who get coronavirus.

"We couldn't even tell he had it (Covid) as he didn't have any symptoms but six weeks later he woke up saying he had a sore tummy and was feeling dizzy.

"We took him to the doctor and they said it was a viral infection but he got worse, had chest pains and then this rash came out all over his body.

"We were so worried that we took him to Altnagelvin Hospital and they said it was tonsillitis but I thought, nah it's definitely not. His temperature kept on rising too, it peaked at 41.9 and that's when he was transferred to the RVH.

"One hour later his eyes were blood red, he was like The Exorcist. It was terrifying, we knew something bad was happening but we hadn't a clue what."

Shay was transferred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast where he was finally diagnosed with the potentially deadly PIMS.

Shay Crossan (7) from Strabane

Shay Crossan (7) from Strabane

The disease caused all Shay's organs to expand and there was the potential for a complete shutdown of his little body.

"If it wasn't for the Royal we would have been visiting my son in the graveyard and that's the truth.

"That's how close my wee lad came and when that was happening I thought someone had ripped the heart out of me.

"I can't fully describe the pain at seeing my son lying in that bed helpless.

"When the doctor first told us what Shay was going through, I fell to my knees in absolute despair and began bawling my eyes out. My legs went from under me.

"No one should have to see their child suffer what Shay suffered.

"We were completely heartbroken, physically, and mentally drained. It's difficult to see positivity when you're in that moment.

"I am the most positive person in the world but then I had nothing.

"It was terrifying, probably the darkest moment of my life. One myself and Naomi will never, ever forget - we are still traumatised but the main thing is that Shay is doing great, he's back playing football and doing his schoolwork.

"We're so lucky we still have him because the alternative is not worth thinking about, it would have destroyed me forever."

For 16 days Shay's parents sat by their son's bedside while his health rapidly deteriorated, praying for a miracle that thankfully came.

His only chance, though far from being a guarantee that his life would be saved, was special treatment which needed to be signed off by Shay's parents.

Shay Crossan (7) from Strabane

Shay Crossan (7) from Strabane

The procedure to unblock his left pulmonary artery using frozen plasma came with high risks but six days after the treatment started Shay began to stabilise.

"It was like Shay was reborn. It was just like watching him being born again and I was so overwhelmed with emotion, they saved my wee boy's life. I will never be able to repay that for as long as I live and I will be forever grateful for what those doctors did. They saved all our lives."

It was during this time that Rusty made the commitment to give something back.

"One night, I was sitting by his bed crying and the doctors came in with treatment forms for me to sign. I didn't even read them, I just signed the forms.

"I remember looking at the wall and seeing pictures of people who had done charity events for the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, and I swore then and there 'If Shay gets out of this, I'll be raising all the money I can for the unit'."

Football-mad Shay recovered, although doctors say it would take time for him to recover fully and he will continue to visit the hospital for the next year.

But Rusty has stuck to his promise and has so far raised over £10,000 for the PICU in Belfast's Royal hospital with the help of his cousins James Finlay and James Crossan and they haven't any plans to stop.

The initial plan was to do the Dublin marathon, but Covid put paid to that, so instead the trio completed a virtual marathon pounding the roads of Strabane, Clady, Rossgier, Porthall, Ballymagorry and Castlefin.

"Everyone in the town has been so supportive with kind words and donations on our JustGiving page. Strabane people really look after our own, and we want to look after the NHS, they deserve all the help and support people can give them.

"Just remember, one day you might need them to save your child's life just as they saved ours," he added.

n To donate, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rusty-crossan.


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