The Heading family have raised an incredible £15,000 through a Tribute Fund set up in the name of their baby son. Through this special fund they hope Fintan’s memory can help other sick babies and children in the future.
It was a huge shock for parents Annie and Paul Heading when instead of cuddling their newborn son he was whisked off to neonatal intensive care. Baby Fintan was born in April 2015 and although he’d needed to be delivered four weeks early, he weighed a healthy 6lb 5oz.
“We didn’t know what lay ahead for Fintan but believed he would be ok,” says Annie. Initially the doctors were mainly concerned about his blood sugar levels. But then they began to suspect Fintan might have a genetic syndrome. “This was because of some of his facial features and his central tone was floppy,” explains Annie. “He also didn’t have a sucking reflex so needed to be tube fed.”
Various tests were done to try and find answers but then things took a tragic turn for the worse. Fintan developed a condition called necrotising enterocolitis or NEC. This devastating bowel infection typically strikes the smallest or most vulnerable babies – those who have been born very prematurely or, like Fintan, those who are already poorly.
Sadly the disease was very aggressive. “Doctors battled to save his life but he didn’t respond,” says Paul. “It was a terrible shock to everyone how quickly he went.” It’s believed that Fintan had an undiagnosed syndrome, which left him unable to fight NEC.
Determined to do something positive to remember their precious son, Annie and Paul discovered Action. “We did a Google search and saw that Action was supporting research into NEC and thought this was amazing. We hoped that we might be able to help prevent another family going through what we went through,” says Annie.
“We set up a Tribute Fund to reflect the love the whole family and our friends felt for Fintan. We thought it would be nice for everybody to see the fund growing and it has allowed people to contribute who might find it difficult to support us in other ways," says Annie.
"People feel so helpless. They want to help ease things for us but they might find it difficult to know how to show that they care.”
Amazingly, more than £15,000 has now been raised towards Fintan’s fund, which is a big focus for the family during the toughest times around his birthday and anniversary. “It gives us something to focus on and to pour our energy into,” says Paul. “And it gives us a chance to talk about Fintan with people.”
In their first year of fundraising, the family held a coffee morning. Last year they set their sights higher – 175 feet high, persuading family and friends to join them on a zip wire challenge over Belfast’s River Lagan.
“Our gorgeous baby boy gave us so much joy, love and happiness in 11 short days,” says Annie. “We feel privileged to have had the time that we did. We know not everybody gets to have even that.
“For us, the Tribute Fund means his memory can continue to light up the lives of people in the future, especially babies and children who are affected by sickness and illnesses around the UK.”
You can find out more about our Tribute Funds here