Ethan lives on in family’s hearts

Anthony and Shauna Heaney and children, Erin, Emma and Cillian at their Belvedere home. INLM41-109gc
Anthony and Shauna Heaney and children, Erin, Emma and Cillian at their Belvedere home. INLM41-109gc

A Lurgan mother has told how she’s taken inspiration from the seven short weeks she spent with her baby boy before he died.

Before Ethan Heaney was born he’d been diagnosed with rare condition congenital diaphragmatic hernia. He also had spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Upon learning of his illnesses his mother was offered a termination.

“Termination was never an option,” said Shauna. “That’s God’s decision.”

“To get one of those things is rare but to get the whole combination was even harder on him,” said the 33-year-old.

Despite having been given only a 10% chance of surviving delivery Ethan was born on July 2. In the days following he underwent three major operations and at points had shown positive signs, but there were further complications including a blood clot and sepsis. In the end the little boy could fight no longer and he passed away on August 25.

Shauna said: “When something like this happens you can climb back into bed and not show your face to the world. That’s the easy way out. That’s not going to help me or the children. That’s not what Ethan would have wanted. Nobody who dies and leaves people behind wants them to close the door on life.”

Shauna and her husband Anthony (44) have three other children - Erin (15), Cillian (12), Emma (9).

Ethan was baptised two days after he was born on July 4. It was first time his brother and sisters got to see him.

Shauna told how Ethan was a happy and lively baby in spite of his ordeal.

She said: “When you hear about everything that he was battling against you picture this wee boy in a comatose state. Ethan wasn’t like that at all.

“When you look past the tubes he was just like any other wee baby. He knew you were in the room, he followed you with his eyes. He was always smiling.”

His mother said: “We had him for seven weeks and five days. He was here for a reason.

“Maybe that reason was to raise awareness of his condition and to help people who are going through similar situations.

“He’s brought us closer together as a family. He’s made us realise what life is all about.

“I got to hold him three times. Anthony got to hold him once and that was the day before he died.

“Right from the start we were told he wasn’t going to survive so we were grateful for every minute we got with him, but every day he was with us made it harder to say goodbye.

“I stayed with him every single day for seven weeks. I never left him.”

She added: “The way people and businesses have rallied round is amazing. Ethan has brought out the best in people.

Shauna paid tribute to the staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children: “The service we got at the Royal’s Paediatric ICU was second to none. They were all very fond of Ethan.

“If they’d said to us after he was born, “I’m sorry there’s nothing we can do,” we’d have accepted that. Instead, they did everything in their power to save him. They looked after him like he was family.”

To say thank you to the hospital the Heaney family have been doing a large amount of fundraising for RVH charity Helping Hand including cake sales at Erin and Cillian’s school Lismore, a football match during the Charity Summer League competition and an upcoming hike up Slieve Donard on October 20.

“If even one wee life can be saved from our fundraising efforts then it will give us some comfort at losing our baby son,” said Shauna.

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