A year ago this week the parents of little Oscar McLaughlin thought their baby boy would never celebrate his first Christmas.
As parents Olivia (36) and Pearse (36) began sprucing up their Portstewart home with all the typical festive garb last year, their seven-month-old bundle of joy took ill.
After spending time in Belfast’s intensive care unit he was transferred to the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle and diagnosed as having no immune system.
“A year ago this week Oscar took unwell and by the 21st he was in intensive care, before being transferred to Newcastle,” said mum Olivia. “Oscar was essentially born without an immune system and Christmas last year we honestly didn’t know whether he would survive.”
Over the next five months the McLaughlin family were at the bedside of little Oscar — kept in a so-called ‘bubble’ and unable to leave his intensive care ward. “We were in complete shock. It’s such a rare condition,” said Olivia. But after his life-saving bone marrow transplant in February, Oscar finally returned home to his doting parents.
And now, when only a year ago his life hung in the balance, little smiling and cheery Oscar is set to celebrate his first Christmas at home alongside his newborn sister Alice.
“Oscar is doing great and still on medication and in hospital once a week. He returned home in May but this will be his first Christmas here,” she said. “He’s not walking yet but he’s a happy and content baby, and his little sister is the same. He absolutely loves her.”
And as far as Christmas gifts for her bundle of joy, paediatric occupational therapist Olivia said: “It’s what he’s not getting rather than what he is. He’s getting lots of things, including a doctor set because of the time he spent in hospital and an ambulance van and a train set.”
But unfortunately the little fighter may have to wait until next year to make his first visit to see the man in the red and white.
“At the moment we can’t take him to Santa because we still have to be very careful with infections,” said his mum.
“But we cannot wait until Christmas with the family.”
For more information on children suffering without an immune system visit www.bubblefoundation.org.uk
Severe combined immune deficiency is a group of inherited disorders that cause severe abnormalities of the immune system. The disorders lead to reduced or malfunctioning T- and B-lymphocytes — the white blood cells made in the bone marrow to fight infection. When the immune system doesn’t function properly, it can be difficult or impossible for it to battle viruses and bacteria.