A grieving father has recalled the heartbreaking moment doctors asked him to choose between the life of his fiancée and his unborn baby, revealing how his ‘heart froze’ at having to make the decision.
Michael Gerry Fotheringham McConnell, 33, from Falkirk, Scotland, who already has five children, Keira, Rebecca, Lacey, Winter and Thomas with his fiancée Stephanie Brown, was overjoyed to learn they were expecting a sixth last year.
However at 18 weeks pregnant, Stephanie, 29, started leaking amniotic fluid, a yellow liquid which surrounds the foetus, before the umbilical cord collapsed.
Michael recalled: ‘The doctor that would deliver took me to one side and asked, “if push comes to shove, who survives? Mother or baby”?’
But despite the risks, the couple decided they would move forward with the birth, and welcomed Mickey Robert Gerry Fotheringham McConnell, weighing only one pound and three ounces, less than a bag of sugar, in November last year.
He spent three months of his life in hospital before he went on to develop methaemoglobinaemia, and doctors said his lungs could no longer support his growing body.
After eight months in hospital, he tragically passed away on 24 July – before the parents could even bring him home.
Michael paid an emotional tribute to his son calling him his ‘wee warrior’, adding: ‘He’s the brightest star I’ve ever known.’
Michael Gerry Fotheringham McConnell, 33 and Stephanie Brown, from Falkirk, Scotland, with Mickey, who tragically never made it home
Mickey, who was born at 1lb 3oz, less than a bag of sugar, needed special equipment to breathe and was described as a ‘wee warrior’ by doting father Michael
The couple are no strangers to heartbreak on their journey to becoming parents, after also suffering a miscarriage a few years ago.
However when they learned they were pregnant with a sixth baby, they were over the moon.
At 18 weeks pregnant, Stephanie began leaking ambiotic fluid, and upon arriving at the hospital, medics told the couple their baby’s heart was ‘too big’. The mother-to-be was referred to a heart specialist.
However, a further scan revealed the true issue was that baby Mickey’s lungs were too small for his body and not in proportion to the rest of his organs.
After eight months in hospital, he tragically passed away on 24 July – before the parents could even bring him home (pictured, Michael and Steph with their children Mickey, Winter, Lacey, Rebecca, Thomas and Keira)
Michael and Stephanie were then given the tragic news that their son, who they hadn’t named at the time, would not make it to full-term.
In a bid to save their baby, Stephanie was asked to carry her pregnancy for a further six weeks, before being transferred to Wishaw General Hospital in Lanarkshire to give birth.
But shortly after Stephanie went into hospital to give birth, doctors discovered a serious complication when the umbilical cord collapsed.
Michael said: ‘The room was full of midwives and doctors, who revealed the umbilical cord had collapsed, creating a dangerous situation.
‘I was terrified when I saw all these people and the looks on their faces told me the severity of Stephanie’s condition.
After Stephanie suffered a number of complications when she was pregnant with Mickey, he ended up being born a tiny 1lb 3oz and three months prematurely
The couple welcomed their son in November last year three months prematurely, and Michael described his relief when he first heard Mickey cry in the operating theatre
‘When I learned my fiancée’s life was in danger, my heart froze – all I cared about in that moment was her being OK.’
The complications with baby Mickey brought back the traumatic memories of their former loss.
But despite this, and the fact medics advised them Mickey might not make it, the couple decided that they wanted to deliver their baby boy.
Michael said: ‘Everyone was skeptical about his survival.
What is Methemoglobinemia, although known as blue baby syndrome?
Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder in which too little oxygen is delivered to your cells.
Oxygen is carried through your bloodstream by hemoglobin, which normally then releases that oxygen to cells throughout your body.
However a specific type of hemoglobin known as methemoglobin carries oxygen through your blood but doesn’t release it to the cells.
If your body produces too much of this, it can begin to replace your normal hemoglobin.
This can lead to there not being enough oxygen getting to cells.
‘I’ve been by [Stephanie’s] side through the worst and scariest times in my life.
‘With her losing fluid, having to hold Mickey in her body for six weeks – it was exhausting, physically and mentally.
‘There was a good chance that the placenta had stuck on Steph’s stomach and bladder, a c-section was their answer to prevent this being a danger.’
The couple welcomed their son in November last year three months prematurely, and Michael described his relief when he first heard Mickey cry in the operating theatre.
He said: ‘There were so many people in the theatre and my heart was in my mouth the whole time.
‘They took my boy away from the operating table and everything was quiet – all I remember is the first time he used his voice.
‘We were in awe, it was so clear and loud. In that moment, the relief was massive.’
Mickey spent three months in the neonatal intensive care unit at Wishaw General Hospital where he started to show improvement and was later moved to a hospital closer to home.
However, just as the family prepared for Mickey to come home, his condition started to deteriorate rapidly.
Michael said: ‘The doctors in the hospital were calling it ‘blue turns’ and were saying that he might not make it.’
‘Blue turns’, or blue baby syndrome, is a condition called methaemoglobinaemia, which, when present in newborn infants, means there are decreased levels of hemoglobin in the baby’s blood.
During his short life, baby Mickey spent time with his other siblings and had specialist breathing apparatus to help his lungs function. However, he never left the hospital or was taken home.
As he continued to grow, but his organs did not catch up, doctors declared Mickey to be on end-of-life care when his body became too big for his lungs.
Mickey spent three months in the neonatal intensive care unit at Wishaw General Hospital where he started to show improvement and was later moved to a hospital closer to home (pictured with older sister Rebecca)
Michael said his son had been a ‘wee warrior’ during the first few months of his life when he was staying in intensive care
The couple’s other children came into hospital to meet with their new baby brother, including Thomas (left) and Winter (right)
During his short life, baby Mickey spent time with his other siblings and had specialist breathing apparatus to help his lungs function (pictured with Winter)
After months in one hospital, as the family prepared to take their son home, his condition began to rapidly deteriorate (left and right)
After a long and tough fight, Mickey passed away peacefully on 24 July in his mother’s arms.
He said: ‘My son, Mickey Robert Gerry Fotheringham McConnell has passed away.
‘He fought a long and complicated fight, he died peacefully and painless in his mother’s arms.
‘He was the brightest star I’ve ever known, I’ll never forget the impact my boy made on this earth, he truly was a warrior.
‘He was suffering, now he’s at peace, shine bright my wee warrior.
‘Rest in peace our beautiful son.’
As he continued to grow, but his organs did not catch up, doctors declared Mickey to be on end-of-life care when his body became too big for his lungs (pictured)
Mickey defied doctors expectations by surviving – but as he grew, he needed more help to breathe
But the father said he feels ‘let down’ by the hospital, claiming: ‘During his stay there, there was a lack of communication and we felt severely let down by the care he received at this time. To this day, we still don’t know the reason for his deterioration.’
Meanwhile he applauded his fiancée Stephanie for her determination and strength throughout the difficult time – calling her an ‘inspiration.’
During the ordeal, the parents had to contend with staying at hospital by Mickey’s side and looking after their five other children – something Michael says was a testament to Stephanie’s ‘strength’ as she managed to somehow juggle both.
He said: ‘Since having Mickey, she’s been amazing and has given that little boy so much of her love and time, all while having our home life to deal with – she’s truly inspirational.
Mickey pictured in June, one month before his death on July 24. While his weight was healthy, his lungs didn’t grow in proportion with the rest of his body and doctors declared he was on end of life care
After a long and tough fight, Mickey passed away peacefully on 24 July in his mother’s arms (pictured, Steph and Mickey)
‘She hasn’t stopped with her efforts, but I try my very best to make her life as easy as it can be in these traumatic times.
‘This has been physically, mentally and emotionally draining, as we’ve had sleepless nights and traumatic days – but we have been there for each other.
‘The support we’ve received has been nothing short of amazing and we’re totally overwhelmed.
‘I am organising a number of fundraising events to help raise money and awareness for families in situations likes ours.’
During the ordeal, the parents had to contend with staying at hospital by Mickey’s side and looking after their five other children
Stephanie and Michael have continued to try to support their other children while going through Mickey’s medical issues (pictured, at the beach with Keira and Thomas)
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has since been set up by a family member to help support the family during this tough time.
The page, set up by Stella Bauros says: ‘Your donations could help towards funeral costs and help ease the cost of living, for eight months having a child fight for his life, left Micheal unable to work much throughout.
‘This funding will help them massively, the last thing you should have to worry about during a time ridden with grief is finances.
‘This money can also help them to give little Mickey the send off he deserves.’
So far, the page has managed to raise £3,000.
Michael said: ‘I want to thank everyone who has supported my family and donated to the page.’
Michael revealed how his children have continued to be their for one another, despite the health challenges their younger brother has faced (left, Rebecca, and right, Lacey during a day at the beach)
Winter, Lacey, Rebecca, Thomas and Keira on a day out at the coast – the close knit family from Falkirk, Scotland have received ‘tons’ of support from people after the loss of baby Mickey