A miracle toddler who defied the odds to overcome a series of life-threatening illnesses during four months in intensive care is set to spend his first Christmas at home.
Caden Coburn from Lisburn was due on Christmas Eve last year but arrived 15 weeks early weighing only 1lb 10oz. He was initially showing no signs of life and was resuscitated by a consultant performing CPR on his tiny chest with her thumb.
That traumatic birth in September 2019 was just the beginning of a unimaginably tough journey for Caden as he battled a range of severe health problems in a start to life that saw him spend 185 days in hospital before he was seven months old.
Caden’s life often hung in the balance as he endured two bleeds on the brain, two bouts of a potentially deadly intestinal disease, bowel surgery, five sepsis infections, kidney and liver failure, chronic lung disease, 35 blood transfusions, 11 stints on a ventilator, three spinal lumbar punctures, an operation to save his eyesight and a number of serious conditions linked to problems with his brain’s pituitary gland, including a rare form of diabetes.
As his mother Josey Loughran, 35, explains, he had the right name for the fight.
“We chose Caden’s name because the day and hour he was born I needed a name for this boy and we actually Googled the word ‘warrior’ and Caden came up. And that’s why his name is Caden, and he has lived through and through the true meaning of the word ‘warrior’,” she said.
“He has a heart of lion, he is so strong. Believe it or not, his heart was the only organ functioning 100% throughout his journey.”
Ms Loughran and fiance Glenn Coburn went through years of IVF treatment prior to Caden’s birth.
The couple, who were at his bedside in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast every day, had kept their Christmas tree up until March this year in the hope of a delayed festive celebration when they finally got Caden home.
But after suffering setback after setback, they finally decided to take down the decorations in the hope that Christmas 2020 might bring happier times.
“This Christmas is going to be extra special,” said Ms Loughran.
She recalls one occasion when a doctor her took her to one side and told her to prepare for the worst.
“Caden wasn’t giving up, so we weren’t giving up, there were still signs of life, so we had to hold on to whatever hope we could,” she said.
“I went back in, I wiped my tears, I sat beside the incubator and I read with him, like I did every single day.
“There was a book that we had and it was called Paddington’s Adventures. This book is 600 pages and I read it three times over.
“I sat every day and the writing was so small the nurses used to say to me, ‘you’ll never finish that’. Well, they didn’t know how long I was going to end up sitting beside the incubator for.”
Mr Coburn explains how his son would give them tiny signals he was still hanging in there.
“A big thing that we always took comfort in was we always wanted to see Caden giving us a sign, we were just looking for a sign to say this is going to be OK, and on the bad days if I stuck a finger in the incubator and placed it in his hand and he gave us a small grip we knew he was OK,” he said.
On Christmas Day last year the nurses in the Royal surprised the couple by dressing Caden in his ICU incubator in a tiny baby grow carrying the family’s new-found motto – Caden Believes.
After a series of false dawns, Caden finally came home for good just before the Covid-19 lockdown in March. The family have been in effective isolation since, mindful of Caden’s vulnerability.
The 15-month-old continues to live with a series of serious conditions.
“He really is a born miracle to have survived all of that history,” said his mother.
“He has progressed immensely in the last number of months. He is talking, he is saying mama, dada and nana.”
Mr Coburn added: “He’s my superhero.”
The couple say they will be forever grateful to the doctors and nurses at the Royal for their care, professionalism and expertise. They were also supported by Northern Ireland premature babies charity TinyLife.
The year 2020 has been like no other for the charity, as it has worked to overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic, moving many of its support services online.
Chief executive Alison McNulty said: “The pandemic didn’t stop the arrival of premature babies – however it did add additional stresses to families who were already facing challenging times.
“Many families were forced to quickly self-isolate and self-shield with family support networks closed down and parental visiting to the neo natal units reduced to only one parent with limited access.”
For further information on TinyLife visit www.tinylife.org.uk or telephone 02890 815 050.