A sports team raised thousands of pounds for a neonatal unit – to say thanks for the care it gave to the son of one of its captains.
Dodgeball club, The Granite City Guerrillas, raised £9,000 from a tournament for the Friends of the Special Nursery.
And the big-hearted club members were inspired to raise the funds after Kevin McDonald, 30, one of the original players and a captain of one of the teams, and his wife Rhiannon, 31, who stay in the city’s Bridge of Don, lost their son Harris when he was just seven days old.
Harris was born 12 weeks premature and was looked after by staff at the neonatal unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI).
During her pregnancy, Rhiannon was told that Harris had hydrops fetalis – a condition that causes a build-up of fluid in the body of an unborn baby.
Kevin, an engineer, said: “Rhiannon had a routine check-up with the midwife, and her blood pressure and a few other things were quite alarming.
“We ended up at the maternity hospital, and Harris was delivered shortly after that by emergency C-section.”
Rhiannon said that they had taken the pregnancy for granted, because “we had never known anyone that had any complications during pregnancy, let alone baby loss.”
She said: “It’s something that you see in films, but you don’t believe it’s real life.
“I think we were both in shock, to be 28 weeks pregnant, and to go from thinking that you have a happy, healthy baby, to then your baby being delivered.
“ I think it took us weeks, or months even to get our heads round it. It happened so quickly that we didn’t really process what had happened.”
It happened so quickly that we didn’t process it
When he was born, Kevin and Rhiannon, a project officer at Aberdeen University, were told that Harris also had leukaemia and Down’s syndrome.
Harris was born with a high white blood cell count, weakening his immune system, but thanks to treatment from the neonatal ward he fought back against the leukaemia.
Kevin said: “He eventually almost beat the cancer, but just because of everything that went on with him, he passed away seven days later.” Harris passed away on November 8 2016.
Kevin was quick to praise the neonatal ward staff, saying: “I’ve told this story quite a few times, and that summarises the bad parts, but as harrowing as that week was, the staff made that week so special for us.
“They gave us the opportunity to do all the things that a first parent should be able to do, like taking photos.
“They let us create some memories that we’ll never ever forget.”
During their stay with Harris, the staff at the unit showed them ways to feed him and hold him, despite the machines that he was hooked up to.
The parents were also able to read to Harris, preferring the books of Dr Seuss, which is a theme that they use to remember Harris.
They dedicated a bench to the memory of Harris beside the River Don, with the Dr Seuss quote “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” on it.
Rhiannon has also run half marathons, and a charity bungee jump to raise cash, and her brother and a group of friends took part in the Tough Mudder obstacle race.
Harris’ funeral, held at the crematorium in Hazlehead, was also turned into an opportunity to help the neonatal unit, with a collection raising more than £2,000.
The service itself was themed to resemble the stories of Dr Seuss, with the more than 200 mourners wearing Dr Seuss badges.
Kevin estimates that their fundraising efforts have brought in about £20,000, surging past their initial target of £10,000.
He said: “This is just a ‘thank you’ to them for what they did for us.
“Just to be able to help, and to give back after what they did for us, it was really good.”
Rhiannon said: “It’s great that it goes to local families. Since having Harris we’ve met a lot of people that have had kids stay in the unit, ranging from a day to a month, and it’s been really good to give back to the local community.”
The tournament aimed to raise £3,000, but the 20-team competition – the biggest in club history – more than doubled that target.