The smallest and most premature baby born at Mater Mothers’ Hospital at South Brisbane last year is celebrated her first Father’s Day with proud dad Benjamin Walsh.
Moira Walsh, who turns one today (5 September), is a miracle baby for Fassifern Valley couple Ben and wife Ashlee Eager.
Their pint-sized princess who is now edging close to 8kg, was born 17 weeks early at less than 24 weeks gestation, weighing just 546g.
Mr Walsh said Father’s Day was an emotional day for his family.
“Father’s Day is already special; we have our son Lestat. Receiving his gifts has always been a point of amusement but Father’s Day now holds extra meaning as it’s the day Moira was born,” Mr Walsh said.
“I’ve jokingly told people that it’s ruined forever, as no gift can top Moira. This year there is true joy and happiness without worry.”
Mr Walsh said he and Moira shared a special bond.
“Moira loves playing with my beard. In the hospital she hated it but when she came home, she fell in love with it,” he said.
“As soon as l pick her up, she grabs a handful. Most mornings we play on the floor, blow raspberries at each other and she babbles about her dreams – we have some pretty deep conversations,” he laughed.
Mater Director of Neonatology Dr Pita Birch said survival rates of babies as young as 22 weeks gestation had dramatically improved in the past decade as a result of new, life-changing technologies and treatments.
“Ten years ago, it was rare for the Mater to provide neonatal intensive care to babies born at 23 weeks and we wouldn’t always provide neonatal intensive care at 24 weeks either,” he said.
“Now, we are providing intensive care for a large number of babies born at 23 weeks, like little Moira, and almost all babies born at 24 weeks.”
Last year was one of the happiest and worst days of my life, said Mr Walsh.
“I got to meet my baby girl for the first time but didn’t know if her first day would be her last.
“Then it was a roller coaster of stress and worry. I had to work and look after the house, then find time to go see Moira and Ashlee in hospital while trying to keep it all together.
“Having her home and seeing her grow into this sassy little bunny has been the best gift possible.”
Mr Walsh said Moira still had some “hurdles to jump”.
“She has hearing issues and needs laser surgery for her eyes, but she should be off oxygen support very soon,” he said.
Due in December, Moira was born on September 5 after Ms Eager’s waters broke without warning.
“The drive to the hospital was one of the hardest moments of our lives,” she said. “I could feel contractions starting but l didn’t want it to be true – I kept coming up with other reasons for the pain.”
Moira was in fetal distress by the time Mr Walsh and Ms Eager, a schoolteacher at Yarrabilba State School, arrived at Mater Mothers’ Hospital and she was born at 11.31pm, kicking and trying to breathe.
Moira spent more than four months in Mater’s Neonatal Critical Care Unit being cared for around-the-clock by a specialist team of doctors and nurses.
Mr Walsh said he was forever grateful to the staff at Mater Mothers’ Hospital who saved his daughter’s life.
“The Mater gave me my daughter. They are all heroes in my eyes. The nurses and doctors cared for Moira and Ashlee when l couldn’t. I can never really put into words what they have given us,” he said.