The premature baby boy at the centre of a moving video which honoured firefighters who fought to protect the family’s South Coast property has finally come home from hospital for the first time – 130 days after he was born.
Little Latrell Paewhenua was 11 weeks early and weighed only 610 grams when he was born at the Royal Randwick Women’s Hospital on May 28. He has had to battle to survive.
While he was fighting for his life in hospital, fires broke out on the South Coast and firefighters had to battle to save the family’s Milton property – including an “amazing” nursery especially built for Latrell and completed only two weeks before the fires hit on August 13.
Latrell’s mother, Jemma Paewhenua, made a video to honour the firefighters who were all that stood between the fire and their home – as well as their “new beginning”.
Told from the point of view of little Latrell as he battled to live, the video went viral as it traced the story of the Paewhenua family as they tried to overcome the string of personal adversities brought on by the loss of their first son 18 months ago.
Jemma made the at times gut-wrenching video because she wanted to send a message of gratitude to everyone who had helped during the bushfires and to “inspire more people to do good”.
Now Jemma and her husband Heemi have even more good to celebrate with Latrell finally being well enough to come home after around four months of waiting and hoping.
“Today we got to take our miracle boy home after the hardest 130 days of our lives,” wrote Jemma in a Facebook post late last week.
“Heemi and I are over the moon that we’re finally able to do our thing as full-time Mum and Dad.
“We’re also scared and nervous that we don’t have medical staff watching his every move.
“Little L is an absolute superstar and we could not be more proud of him.”
Jemma told Region Media that having Latrell home feels quite surreal.
“We’re experiencing all sorts of emotions but mostly happiness,” she said.
Jemma said that Latrell has chronic lung disease and they need to be very careful about what he is exposed to.
“He’s on oxygen for now so we have a portable bottle that we take out with us and a big bottle at home,” Jemma said.
“We just have to replace his tapes every few days for the nasal cannula. We also have a load of appointments with doctors and specialists.
“We’re trying not to keep him wrapped in cotton wool so we’ve headed out to the park, beach, and markets since being home.
“We are keeping him covered though as he’s very sensitive to adult germs and nicotine.”
Jemma said that she, Heemi and little Latrell have actually been staying at her mother’s place since Latrell came out of hospital while they work to get his bedroom at the Milton property sorted.
The fire in mid-August burnt out 100 hectares, including neighbouring properties and all the bush surrounding their home.
“Everything was a mess after the fire as they had only just finished the renovation – so we still need to do a bit of cleaning, setting up furniture, and unpacking,” Jemma said.
However, she expects to move Latrell to their home and “place of healing” this Friday or Saturday.
It will be an amazing time for Jemma and Heemi who say that Latrell “has opened our eyes to just how fascinating life truly is”.
Below is the moving video released on August 19 which has had almost 42,000 views and 788 shares to date. It is shared from Jemma’s Facebook page.
This is a message of gratitude to everyone who has helped during the bushfires. There’s a special message in here for pilot Allan Tull (the pilot who tragically lost his life), so PLEASE SHARE with everyone as we’re hoping it will reach his family ??
Posted by Jemma Paewhenua on Sunday, 19 August 2018