“This time last year he was in hospital for Xmas... it’s going to be emotional to all be here and have Freddie home with us this year”
This time last year, the toddler spent Christmas in hospital after a lengthy period in ICU where he’d become seriously ill.
Now his family say his first Christmas at home in Co Wicklow with twin brother Theo, big brother Harry and parents Tracy and Andrew will be all the more treasured.
“It’s going to be emotional but in the best way really to all be here for Christmas and have Freddie home with us,” said Tracy.
“We’re just going to spend time at home together for Christmas — it’s just a joy. This time last year he was in hospital for Christmas.”
Freddie — who along with twin Theo was born 10 weeks prematurely in June 2021 — arrived into the world with various health issues. He has been hospitalised several times and is very vulnerable to infections.
After suffering a collapsed lung following two viral infections last year, doctors feared he would not pull through.
He is peg fed and until recently required oxygen, but to the joy and relief of his family, has thrived in recent months.
Now 18-month-old Freddie, who was born with Down Syndrome, is making strides following a difficult first year.
During a routine scan a week before they were born, doctors noticed that Freddie’s placenta had started to decline. “I was admitted into hospital to keep an eye on it,” explained Tracy.
“At 30 weeks and one day, they had to deliver by emergency C-section. So they were born and they were taken straight off to NICU, which we knew would happen.
“About an hour after the birth the consultant came to tell us that Freddie had Down Syndrome. They did an echo of his heart because half of babies born with Down Syndrome have heart defects. Structurally his heart was fine.
"We just felt like they would be in NICU for a few weeks to grow and get bigger and come home.”
But Freddie had difficulty feeding and was transferred to Crumlin Children’s Hospital, before finally going home at 13 weeks. Just days later, he was admitted again as he family were concerned about his breathing.
“After a number of tests, he was diagnosed with a condition called interstitial lung disease. His lungs hadn’t matured enough and he needed oxygen.”
After finally getting their boy home again in February, Freddie suffered a respiratory attack and had to return to hospital by ambulance.
“He went through more times just being sick, virus after virus. And then eventually, in July of this year, he was ready to go home again.
“We haven’t looked back really since July. He’s off oxygen now, we’re working on building up his oral feeding, we’re slowly getting there. He’s coming on in leaps and bounds, he’s doing brilliantly.”
His family are also grateful to Irish charity Jack and Jill.
“Jack and Jill have just been a massive, massive support to us,” said Tracy. “It gave us a little bit more time at home with the other kids. Just to know that Freddie was with somebody that was giving him that one-on-one care when I’m not there, it was just invaluable.
“We would like to thank our Jack and Jill nurses Orla, Jane, Niamh and Holly and our co-ordinator Fiona.
“Where we are this year compared to where we were last year is miles apart. We were here watching the Toy Show this year and he was in ICU. This year, it was a real full circle moment for us to be watching the Toy Show with Freddie here. It was amazing.”
nThe Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation have launched a fundraising appeal to help provide nursing support to keep their families together this Christmas. See jackandjill.ie