The family of a 13-year-old boy who spent most of the last two years in hospital have spoken of their joy after he was able to enjoy the Twelfth celebrations in Portadown.
Blake McCaughey from Tandragee spent the day with his dad Andrew and the Portadown True Blues.
His mum Christine said it had been heartwarming to see after a long struggle with his health.
Blake was born with chromosonal deletions but an unrelated reaction to food poisoning two years ago caused a devastating reaction of intestinal failure which stopped his stomach and bowel working.
“He lost 9kg in weight and was very sick, so he ended up in the Royal and so after nine surgeries and different procedures he has to be connected to machines 15 hours a day to feed him,” she said.
Blake receives TPN (total parenteral nutrition) which means fluid is pumped into his heart instead of receiving solid foods.
The family carefully timed Blake’s day out to allow for his demanding feeding schedule.
"On top of that with Covid he hasn’t been anywhere because TPN has left his immune system very low.
"But today it looks like it’s not bothering him, he’s having a fantastic time.
"It was like was a Christmas day to Blake. He loves the bands and being out to wave at people.
"He felt like a king being wheeled about through the band. We were up at the scrape of dawn and had the uniform sitting out and had to know our whole routine.
"Now he’s home and exhausted but ready to go again tomorrow for another Portadown parade.”
Christine said the last two years in hospital had been a strain for all the family with Covid rules meaning he wasn’t able to see his dad and sister for extended periods of time.
The next step in his treatment journey is now to fly by helicopter over to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London next month.
“It will be a fortnight of gruelling tests to see what we can find out what the road ahead is for him and to try and get him back on some sort of nutrition again,” Christine said.
"He has put a bit of weight on and is in better health but we still have a bit to go.”
She said nothing was going to keep Blake away from the parades, as he told doctors at the Royal Belfast Hosptial for Sick Children last week.
"He said ‘how long will it be because I have to go for the bonfire you know’.
"I was saying sorry to them, but it was in his wee head what his priority was. But it was great just to be out as a family and try and do normal things.
"You just have to get up and take the good days.”