Shane had it all.
His wife Rachel was pregnant with their first child and, together with her son Maison, they had built a life together in Townsville.
Then Rachel miscarried and their hearts were broken.
Within months, Rachel and Shane were again pregnant and when Rachel passed the first trimester the couple felt they could celebrate the exciting time that lay ahead.
“I was 44 at the time, a bit of a late starter, so we were ecstatic that Rach was pregnant again; it was a real dream come true,” Shane said.
But their happiness was short lived—within weeks Rachel was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer.
“Our world fell apart. You can’t process that information; we went into a tailspin and it has never stopped.”
Three days later, Rachel was flown to Mater Mothers’ Hospital in South Brisbane where she began a form of chemotherapy usually given to breast cancer patients, which would minimise the risk of harm to her baby.
“Rachel being pregnant probably gave us another couple of years with her; because had she not been pregnant, we may not have seen a doctor so quickly and she probably wouldn’t have lasted six months,” Shane said.
From 16 weeks gestation, Rachel and Shane would fly to Brisbane once every three weeks for Rachel’s chemotherapy and scans to check the baby’s progress.
Twelve weeks later, scans showed Rachel’s tumour had grown six centimetres in three weeks.
Doctors told the couple it was time to meet their baby so Rachel could undergo a more intensive course of treatment.
Rachel was given steroids to help boost her baby’s lung development and a team from Mater’s Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU) were on hand to ensure Shane and Rachel’s baby received the best possible care.
“We didn’t find out what we were having; even through all the scans, and we had hundreds. Secretly I think Rach really wanted to have a girl because she already had Maison, but I didn’t care.”
At 12.06pm on 14 December 2012, Shane and Rachel’s daughter Hannah was born.
“She weighed just under 1000 grams, was 40cm long and came out screaming,” Shane said.
Born 11 weeks premature, Hannah was raced to Mater’s NCCU where she stayed for eight weeks.
“From the start, it was clear Hannah was strong; she never had any major complications, just the usual hiccups along the way. She needed some assistance with her breathing early on and had two blood transfusions but some families go through much more."
“I never realised just how many babies are born sick or premature; the NCCU was full almost the entire time we were there and as soon as one baby moved up from Intensive Care to the Special Care Nursery, there was another who took that place."
“Having a premature baby is like entering a whole new world, one which most of the general community don’t realise exists, but for the parents who do experience it, it means everything and it’s so important.”
It was a tough time for Shane, Maison and Hannah, following the death of Rachel in August of 2014, but Shane remains focused on helping his children remember their amazing mum.
“Rach’s death was really hard; it was quite traumatic and difficult, Hannah is too young to understand what’s happened but she still asks for her mum quite frequently, while Maison finds it a lot harder. We’re just trying to put all the pieces back together."
“Hannah has recently started day care and my goal is just to give our kids a good, happy and healthy life and to help them remember their mother."
“I know every parent thinks their kid is intelligent, but she is sassy, obnoxious, has attitude and she talks like a five year old even though she’s only three."
“You’d never know she had such a rough start; it really surprises people when I tell them she was born 11 weeks early.”
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