West Cumbrian baby Leo McIntyre’s fight shows he has the biggest heart

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Little Leo McIntyre amazes his parents each day as he continues to smile through the constant hurdles thrown his way.

Leo McIntyre
Leo McIntyre

When Michelle McIntyre was 20 weeks pregnant, she and her husband Andrew were hit with the devastating news that their baby had a rare heart problem and, if he made it full term, would need major and multiple surgeries.

Since then, brave Leo has faced numerous operations and procedures and was left fighting for his life following a cardiac arrest at just eight days old.

But he has battled through them all and has just celebrated his six-month birthday in hospital.

The couple, who live at St Bees, say they admire their son’s determination and want to thank everyone who has supported them every step of the way – including family, friends and the West Cumbrian community.

In an emotional interview, 32-year-old Michelle revealed how she got to hold her treasured baby for just 30 seconds after he was born at Newcastle’s RVI, before he was whisked away to the nearby Freeman Hospital where he underwent his first major open heart surgery at four days old.

"I remember placing my hand on Leo's chest and his torso was almost the same size as my hand," she said. "I kept thinking to myself how on earth are they going to operate on something so small.

"We felt physically sick the morning Leo was taken to theatre, The surgeon warned us that he could take 10 Leo's into surgery but only nine would come back out. We had no idea whether Leo would be one of those nine

"Andrew and I sobbed while holding Leo's hands in ours. We felt guilty but

 Leo McIntyre with brothers Lewis and Curtis

Leo McIntyre with brothers Lewis and Curtis

we knew this was his only chance of survival.

"The operation took over seven hours and it was the longest day of our lives."

The surgery was a success, but the couple faced further heartache as Leo suffered a cardiac arrest when he was eight days old and was put on life support and a week later he contracted sepsis.

Michelle, a science technician at West Lakes Academy in Egremont, said: “It was 27 days before we could hold Leo again. When your baby is lying there in front of you fighting for his life, you feel so hopeless.

“The hardest thing is to not pick him up, cuddle him and rock him to sleep.

“But at least we could be there for him, talking to him, telling him how much we loved him every minute of every day.”

 Baby Leo McIntyre with dad Andrew and mum Michelle

Baby Leo McIntyre with dad Andrew and mum Michelle

Earlier this year, Leo needed emergency surgery as his main artery, the aorta, almost closed.

He is currently waiting his second stage of open heart surgery, called the glenn, but a recent procedure showed his lung pressure was too high.

It is hoped he will be able to have the operation in a couple of months and can finally go home to West Cumbria with his parents and brothers Curtis, seven, and Lewis, 16.

“We have nearly lost our son on more than one occasion and the pain that strikes you is unbearable,” said Michelle.

“Every day is a battle, but we are so proud of how far he’s come. And we’re so impressed with how he has surpassed everyone’s expectations.”

A number of events have been held to raise money for the McIntyre family,

as well as to give back to the medical team at the Freeman. Fundraisers have also taken place for Scott House, provided by charity The Sick Children’s Trust, which is providing the couple with accommodation close to their son while he remains in hospital.

"We intend to give back," said Michelle. "We would not have been able to get through these trying and difficult times had it not been for Scott House, the amazing team at Freeman Hospital and our friends and family.

"We would like to say a big thank you to all who have offered their support and help throughout Leo's journey. It has helped massively and has been a great comfort to know how much everyone cares and is willing to help even though they are miles away.

"Everyone's support has made a huge difference to this horrendous time. And it's lovely that there are so many people helping us to give something back to the places that have helped our baby boy so far."

 Leo McIntyre with brothers Lewis, 16, and Curtis, 7

Leo McIntyre with brothers Lewis, 16, and Curtis, 7

The couple wanted to say a special thank you to their parents who have supported them every step of the way.

And Michelle's cousin, Paula Prosser who has arranged numerous events to raise money to financially support the couple while they have stayed with Leo in hospital.

Anne McKain has also donated money from Sarah's Star Fund, and Michelle's mum who has been raising money for Scott House since last year.

The next fundraiser, a prize bingo, takes place on May 7 at St Mary’s Club, Kells from 3pm.

The Sick Children's Trust, which supports the family through its Home from Home accommodation is trying to raise £65,000 through a Big Chocolate Tea campaign, which starts on Friday. (April 21) The charity is urging people to get involved by hosting a tea party, cake sale or bake-off and visiting www.sickchildrenstrust.org/bigchoctea

Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 5:19PM
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