Alison Moore couldn’t be sure she’d ever see little Jett again after he was transferred from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) 13 years ago.
“I remember Jett being so unwell and thinking that this little boy may not make it,” the retired nurse says.
“When they’re born that early and they’re that sick, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Alison has since caught up with Jett and his mother Melody, father Jason and older brother Beau (17) several times over the years, but last Friday (19 January) was extra special.
Now 13 years old and a keen rugby league player, Jett had a giant cheque in his hands for $4200, made out to the Newborn Intensive Care Foundation.
The Davies family had made the trip from their home in Narrandera (a small town about an hour northwest of Wagga Wagga) to Canberra to personally deliver the donation to staff at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.
Melody was diagnosed with preeclampsia during her pregnancy with Jett and was transferred to Canberra.
“We knew that he was going to come a bit earlier, but we didn’t know how early,” she says.
Jett was delivered via emergency C-section at 32 weeks and sent straight to NICU with the “lungs of an 80-year-old man”. He spent 14 weeks on and off a CPAP machine while doctors struggled to work out what was wrong.
During that time, Melody was put up in the old nurses’ residences while Jason and Beau would drive up every weekend to see them.
“Being so far away from family and in a real life or death situation for my baby, it was important to feel safe and cared for, and the staff here were amazing,” she recalls.
When they eventually returned home, after further stints in the Griffith Hospital and Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney, Jett was on steroids and fed through a tube for 12 months, and tethered to an oxygen machine with a 30-metre-long tube for three years.
Times have certainly changed.
“I’m going into under-14s for the Narrandera Lizards Junior Rugby League,” says Jett, who now dreams of becoming an NRL player.
Inspired by his idol, Jarome Luai from the Penrith Panthers, Jett grew his hair out since Year 2 to the point it dropped to his lower back. But for his school’s Year 6 ‘Fun Day’ on Friday, 24 November, he decided to cut it back and raise funds for the place that saved his life.
“I was diagnosed with a chronic lung disease and I was going to die, but all the nurses saved me,” he says.
“So I’m grateful for that.”
Via a GoFundMe page and donations received on the day, he raised $4200. Through the Newborn Intensive Care Foundation, the money will be used to fund medical equipment, research and nurse education to help critically ill newborn babies.
“We are very fortunate to have a very healthy 12-year-old, which we didn’t think we were going to have,” Melody adds.
The Canberra NICU looks after about 800 patients a year from within the ACT and the surrounding NSW region.
“We care for children with extreme prematurity through to medical or surgical conditions that require close observation in the neonatal age group,” acting director of nursing Donna Cleary says.
“When you’ve cared for someone as long as Jett and his family, to see such a wonderful outcome is really special. Once families leave here, they often don’t want to come back. I think being able to come back and give something back is pretty special, especially for the nurses.”