On Christmas Eve 2015, Alan and Ciara Kerins thought they would be enjoying their first Christmas at home with their newborn son, Ruadhán. Instead, their beautiful baby boy would spend the next five months fighting for his life in Temple Street Hospital.
Little Ruadhán Kerins from Galway was born just before Christmas, on his parents' wedding anniversary.
"It was the perfect day, everything seemed to be perfect," recalled Ciara. "And then, on day two, everything started to go wrong."
At first, Alan and Ciara noticed that Ruadhán seemed to be very quiet. Then Alan noticed a nurse checking his little baby boy.
“I didn’t know what she was doing at first, but it turned out she was checking his sugars. Then she turned to us in panic and said, 'This baby has to go to intensive care'.”
In fact, Ruadhán was critically ill. He was eventually diagnosed with a condition called ‘hyperinsulinism’, which means his pancreas was producing dangerous levels of insulin. Without immediate and expert treatment, he would not survive.
So, on Christmas Eve, Ruadhán was brought to Temple Street Hospital and rushed to Michael’s B ward – the only neonatal, high dependency unit outside of a maternity hospital in Ireland.
"It was hard to watch. Every half hour or every hour, depending on the severity of his sugars, they had to prick his heal and squeeze loads of blood out into a little tube. This was every hour, 24 hours a day, for four or five months," Alan said.
But over the next few months, Ruadhán’s condition continued to get worse. And, as the medical teams battled to save his life, Alan and Ciara stayed beside their son, hoping and praying.
“We kind of made a pact. We didn’t know much about the illness, so we said we’d just try and be his mum and dad.”
When Ruadhán was air-lifted to Manchester for specialised surgery to remove part of his pancreas, his devoted parents were by his side.
And during those long months, the extraordinary love of a parent for a child, was clear for all to see. At one stage, when Ruadhán was in Manchester before his surgery, he needed an emergency blood transfusion, but his veins were so tiny it became almost impossible to do.
And so his dad, Alan, sat at his son’s side, holding the needle in place – for 13 hours – from 6 in the morning until 7 o’clock that night.
Alan and Ciara feared their son would need as much as 95% of his pancreas removed. But six hours after the surgery began, doctors told them that they only had to remove 3%.
“We just burst into tears," Ruadhán’s dad recalled.
Ruadhán retuned ‘home’ to Temple Street to continue his long road to recovery. And Alan and Ciara finally began to enjoy some of those magical moments that we often take for granted.
Ciara said: “I remember one special day, the first day we could hold Ruadhán ourselves. Where we could pick him up and walk down the corridor without him being attached to anything. It was amazing.”
After months of exhaustion and worry, Alan and Ciara finally got to take their son back to Galway for the first time. Ruadhán has since made a full recovery but Temple Street will always be a huge part of his family’s life.
“Ruadhán spent the first few months of his life in Temple Street. And the love and the care he got there oozes out of him. It’s in his smile and his character. Words can’t describe how grateful we are to them for what they have done for Ruadhán – for saving his life.”
But it's far more than the expert medical care that makes Temple Street so special to Alan and Ciara.
"Medical care is part of it. But what makes Temple Street stand out is the love they give you. It’s the emotional support. It’s the human touch that makes it so special.”
Temple Street Foundation has released the second in their powerful new series of patient video stories - highlighting the experiences of just some of the many families in Temple Street Children's University Hospital who benefit from your support and donations.