A YOUNG West Belfast couple will be counting their blessings at the Clonard Novena this week after their new-born baby was rescued from the brink of death.
Jonny and Tanya McKeown were told there were “no signs of life” after little Rubie was born on May 28, and they were faced with the agonising decision of whether or not to switch off her ventilator. Three weeks later the pair are doting on their precious parcel in their Springfield Road home.
Speaking to the Andersonstown News, the couple say their faith kept them going and they are looking forward to taking Rubie to Clonard with them this week for the annual Novena where they will thank God for their little miracle.
“I was nine days overdue when I started getting pains,” recalled Tanya. “We went straight to the hospital [RVH Maternity] and I was told I was just two centimetres dilated. They said they would give me painkillers and I could go home. But the nurse decided to check me and Rubie’s heartbeat with the monitor first.”
Within minutes, two doctors had arrived in the room to tell Tanya her baby’s heart rate wasn’t healthy and the child was in distress. Tanya was whisked to theatre for emergency surgery under general anaesthetic.
“Rubie was born at 5.05am and for seven minutes she did not breathe, they said there were just no signs of life,” said the 24-year-old first-time mum. “She was put on a ventilator and spent nine days in intensive care and 12 days in a special care unit.”
Dad Jonny, anxiously waiting outside the operating theatre, was immediately told the distressing news.
“They said there were no signs of any life and that Rubie had suffered brain damage because she hadn’t been able to breathe,” he said. “I was just a mess when they told us this.”
So bad was the baby’s condition that the pair were offered the option of having Rubie christened that very morning in hospital – and they agreed.
“They told us she wouldn’t make it past lunchtime,” said Tanya, “so we wanted to get her christened. But Rubie was still with us after lunch and she was still on the ventilator three days later and that was when they gave us our options.”
Three choices were outlined to the couple and they opted to keep their baby on drugs but with the ventilator switched off, as keeping it on was proving too stressful for her tiny body.
“It was a gamble, a leap of faith, if you like,” says Tanya. “They told us to stay close by and of course we did and Rubie just kept on fighting. She kept progressing and we were finally able to bring her home on Tuesday. She has been hurt by her ordeal but she is here now and we are just so delighted.”
“They told us last week that she would be deaf,” added Jonny, “but this week she passed her hearing test and her eyesight is fine too. That gives us hope because they don’t know the extent of any brain damage. But as Tanya says, Rubie is here and that’s all that matters.”
The pair say they are eternally grateful to the staff at the Royal Maternity Hospital for their support and professionalism and to the many who have sent good wishes, cards and flowers.
“So many people have been praying,” smiled Tanya. “We have had Padre Pio’s mitt and a Pope’s cap from Rome in the house to help us all pray for Rubie.
“If God wanted her then He would have taken her, but she is here with us and we will do everything we can for her. She has got to meet everyone since she got out and we look forward to taking her to the Novena to thank God.”