On 18 October 2008, the world as I knew it changed irrevocably. Alex was born way too early I knew and very small, but so perfect in every way imaginable. I couldn’t believe that this tiny person who looked so much like me and who had fought so hard to make it to us had arrived reasonably safely.
That first day was such a blur, his birth, his admission to the NICU at the Royal Hospital for Women and the journey that for us was just beginning. Everything had started out so normally. Jacinta and I like any other expectant parents had assumed that we too would have a healthy baby to take home from the hospital, but sadly this wasn’t to be. We knew that her pregnancy wasn’t progressing normally and that he would have to be delivered early for him to have the best chance of surviving but we had hoped to get a little bit further than we did.
Alex was born at 26 weeks and 4 days weighing 540 grams and lived for 28 days before succumbing to a Sepsis infection. When he was born, a ballpoint pen was longer than he was, but he was born, he was here and he was ours and we were determined to do whatever we could to give him the chance that we had all fought so hard for him to get. In the end however, his little body couldn’t mount that one last challenge to overcome another obstacle. I can’t fault him though. My little mate had sidestepped or overcome so many of the other obstacles relating to prematurity and had fought amazingly hard every single day of his life so I know that it’s not like he didn’t try.
His name was chosen for what it meant – Alexander – a leader of men. In many ways that is truly who and what he was during his brief life. He didn’t seem to flinch from any challenge, from any procedure that even I as his father couldn’t bear to watch them do to my little son, and brought us such immeasurable joy and amazement during his life.
Alex’s treatment by the staff in the NICU was flawless. The staff treated us as if we were members of their larger extended family. No question was too much hassle for them to answer, no panic attack was anything they weren’t prepared to help us through and when Alex passed, the shock and despair demonstrated by the staff mirrored our own. Truly it was if one of their own children had died. In sea of uncertainty while Alex was an inpatient, the staff there was an island of hope and competence that we could cling too when we weren’t there.
It’s funny because I vaguely remember seeing the handprint portrait of Henry, Jasper and Evan in the unit as I went there day after day to see Alex. In fact, one of NICU Registrars used to tell us the story of Sophie and Ash and their experience as a way to get us to keep the faith that we would be one of the lucky ones who got to take their baby home.
When I first got approached by my wife to run in the half for this cause, I laughed in her face. I asked her do you know how long 21.1 kilometres is? Now, I have run the last 3. I don’t run it for myself, I run it for Alex and all the other children who benefit from the care and supports that he did. I run it so that other parents in our position, have a better chance of taking their precious much loved babies home from hospital and most importantly I run it so that Alex’s memory can live on not only in my heart but in the hearts of all of the people who pull on the singlets and run for this team and this cause. After everything that Alex has done for me and given me, this is the least that I can do for him, because he will always be my first born and my littlest mate, until I die. When you pull on Sophie’s singlet and line up at the start line after all of the training that you have done, no matter who you are running for, thank you, because you are also running for my beloved Alex, like I am running for your special child and for that we will always be grateful.