Little Iwan Pugh will be able to open his presents surrounded by family members for the first time this Christmas.
The toddler was born dangerously premature, at just 25 weeks, and didn’t start breathing for a terrifying 18 minutes.
Mom Abby, a civil servant from Lixwm, north Wales, said: “He’s our little living, breathing miracle.”
This Christmas, the Sun’s Joy to the Ward appeal is raising money for NHS Charities Together, which supports more than 230 NHS Charities across the UK, helping to fund things including accommodation for parents like Abby to use while their child is in hospital.
There is still time to donate and The Sun promises to double your donations up to $26,714.
Abby, who stayed near to the hospital during Iwan’s recovery, said: “When that phone rings in the middle of the night, you know there’s a problem. You need to be able to get to the ward as quickly as possible.”
Iwan – who is now two years old – was born by emergency Caesarean section at Arrowe Park hospital, Wirral, on April 17 2019, weighing a tiny 2lbs 1oz.
After 15 minutes of CPR, medics warned Abby and her partner Andy Pugh, 31, a careers adviser, to prepare themselves for the worst.
Abby, 31, said: “We were told they would only carry only with CPR for another three minutes.”
Incredibly, Iwan’s heart started beating just before the cut-off, but he was given just a 17 per cent chance of survival.
Abby said: “We were told the next 72 hours were critical and we should take photos because that might be all we have.
“Andy went down to the neonatal unit on his own while I was recovering from surgery. We felt strongly that if all Iwan had was 72 hours on this planet, we didn’t want him to be alone.
“The first time I saw my baby was when Andy texted a photo of Iwan from the neonatal intensive care unit.
“It was shocking to see all the medical equipment engulfing this tiny baby.”
Against all odds, Iwan pulled through, spending his first 87 days in hospital, transferring for a spell at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, and ending his journey at Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, north Wales.
Abby and Andy were able to stay at Ty Croeso, a six-bed shared accommodation near Glan Clwyd so they could be as close as possible to Iwan, but it wasn’t in the best shape.
Abby said: “I told Andy that if we couldn’t stay at the hospital then we would live in our car in order to be close to Iwan.
“Thankfully we were able to stay at Ty Croeso for over a month and although we were so grateful to be there, it definitely needed a little TLC.
“There was a communal shower, and as with any new mom post-surgery, some privacy would have been appreciated.
“The toilet is in the bedroom, right next to your head.
“And the mattresses were so uncomfortable, it was difficult to sleep.”
‘Families must be able to fight for their child’
Ty Croeso runs entirely on charity donations.
NHS charity Awyr Las – one of the causes supported by NHS Charities Together – is raising money to transform Ty Croeso into a modern five-bed five bathroom facility, to give parents some comfort at the most difficult of times.
Abby said: “When your child is so poorly, all your energy goes on focusing on your child.
“It’s so vital there is accommodation on site that is as comfortable as possible, so the families can be strong as they can be to fight for their child.”
Iwan came home on July 10 – 15 days before his due date.
He was on oxygen until January 2020, but he’s grown into a thriving little boy.
Abby said: “He had a hole in the heart but at the last check up, a scan showed it had healed over.
“We spent his first Christmas in Alder Hey after Iwan had an operation for a hernia, then last year we were all in lockdown.
“So this Christmas will be extra special because it’s the first normal one we can have with him, surrounded by all our families.
“Iwan is the happiest soul around, a typical toddler and an absolute joy.”
Twins arrived six weeks early
Cari Lewis, 41, and her partner Lyndon Creamer, 46, also know how vital families’ accommodation is for new parents.
They welcomed their twins, Tomos and William, at Glan Clwyd Hospital on January 17, 2019 – six weeks before their due date.
Cari, a Welsh teacher, said: “I was in hospital from the Saturday before Christmas, when my waters broke.
“The boys were delivered by C-section nearly a month later and spent two weeks in neonatal intensive care (NICU) before going onto the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) in ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor for a further week and a half.”
As there was only a single room available at Ty Croeso, Cari stayed on site while Lyndon, who runs a tool hire business, travelled back and forth from their home in Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd, about an hour and a half away.
‘Difficult and stressful time’
Cari said: “Knowing I could be so close to my boys and breastfeed was fantastic.
“I was able to go upstairs to the unit in my dressing gown in the early hours to feed them and enjoy vital skin-to-skin contact.
“I will always be grateful for the aftercare from the staff who supported me when I was feeling upset and anxious.
“It also meant we could attend the parent support group and meet other families who were going through similar experiences while we were there.”
The boys are now confident, lively, bilingual toddlers.
Cari is urging Sun readers to donate to Joy to the Ward, saying: “Without Ty Croeso, we simply don’t know how we could have gone through this difficult and stressful time.
“Please donate to help families who have been fortunate to have been helped like ours this Christmas.”
This story originally appeared on The Sun an d was reproduced here with permission.