Miracle boy and his mum stand out

By Kiri Gillespie

Fiona Syme knows first hand how touch-and-go life can be for premature babies.

Two years ago, the Whakamarama mother gave birth to twins just 24 weeks into her pregnancy. Only one survived.

Now, photographs of Ms Syme and her young family, will feature in a MILK Tailor Made Book, titled For the Love of Our Kids.

The help she received for surviving baby Alex spurred her to support the book, which aims to raise money for Starship Hospital.

It also features well-known identities like Tiki Taane, Sir Peter Leitch, Jacquie Brown and Keven Mealamu with their children or patients from Starship Children's Hospital.

Ms Syme and her partner, Andrew Cutfield, already had daughter Maddie when they found out Ms Syme was pregnant with twins.

The pregnancy was difficult and at 24 weeks, Ms Syme suffered a "massive bleed" and was taken to Auckland Hospital.

Babies Alex and Finn were born 30 hours later.

In New Zealand, 24 weeks is considered the earliest a baby can be born and still survive.

Alex weighed 872gm, Finn weighed 675gm. Baby Finn died a few days after being born.

Ms Syme spent three months at the hospital's Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with Alex and another month at Tauranga Hospital's Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).

"When you first go into NICU, they explain it as a roller coaster and that's a perfect analogy because you are exhausted, you are grieving and you are struggling to try and put everything into him [Alex] and then Maddie and Andrew."

Ms Syme attempted to express milk every three hours but developed mastitis. Looking back on Alex's tumultuous first two years, Ms Syme was grateful.

"When I see him and Maddie together, it was worth everything over the past two years."

Ms Syme said she and her partner owed Alex's life to NICO and SCBU.

"That's the whole thing, I've said to Andrew I don't think we will ever be able to do enough to give back what they have done."

At her Whakamarama home this week, Ms Syme paused to admire her now bubbly and vivacious two-year-old showing off his best yoga and running moves.

"He's a miracle really.

"To look at him you just wouldn't know."

During the interview, Alex would run up to the photographer to wrap his arms around his legs and offer his toys.

"He loves people, especially loves men.

"He absolutely lights up when people are around. Honestly, he is adored by our whole family.

"It's just so good that he's got to the strength where he's so robust," Ms Symes said.

The book's images were taken by photographer Michelle Carlson and will be available through the Starship Foundation website at www.starship.org.nz/lovekids for $45 plus postage.

Gretchen Hawkesby, Chair of the Friends of Starship, said everyone involved in the book had been generous with their time and families.

"For the Love of Our Kids makes a stunning coffee table book or a beautiful gift and I really encourage people to buy a copy or two. It's for such a good cause, supporting children from all over New Zealand who come to Starship."

Copies are available for advance orders now and will be available for delivery in November.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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