Two dads from Co. Armagh are using a charity car show event to raise awareness around their own experiences with premature births.
Friends Philip Somerville and Ian Campbell have both come through their tough journeys and have been brought together through their similar challenges.
Both their sons – Jack & Bertie – were born early, and both spent time in the neonatal units of Craigavon Area Hospital and the Royal Maternity Hospital.
Armed with their experiences, and a desire to raise awareness (and some money), Philip and Ian want to make ‘Jack & Bertie’s Car Show Bonanza’ an event to remember.
All proceeds of the event will be going to the neonatal units at both hospitals. A GoFundMe has already been launched to get a kickstart on the fundraiser.
The show will take place on Saturday, June 1 2024 at the Palace Demesne in Armagh. There’ll be something for everyone to enjoy with a huge range of exhibits, including; a static car show, special car displays, a trade village, a craft village and kids’ activities.
While the event is being held next summer, Jack’s dad Philip told Armagh I that it was important to highlight his experience early.
He explained: “Jack was born 10 weeks early in October 2021. My wife Sarah gave birth to him in The Royal Jubilee where he was rushed to neonatal and ventilated to make sure his wee lungs could open enough to start breathing.
“After five days, he moved to Craigavon Neonatal Unit where he spent the next 57 days. Here we got to hold and cuddle our son for the first time, with all the leads and tubes attached to his tiny body.”
Philip continued: “Over time he weaned off oxygen and tube feeds and the nurses taught us how to bottle feed him to help him gain weight. And when he gained enough weight we were able to bring him home just in time for Santa.”
Philip says that the nurses in the unit treated him like “he was their own,” and nothing was too much bother.
“The nurses in both hospitals were like family to us. They seen us at our most vulnerable… Sarah and I will forever be grateful for everything the staff at both hospitals did for Jack and us.
“Two years on, Jack hasn’t looked back. He’s a healthy little boy who fought hard to be where he is and is a very determined little man who never turns down the chance to get a hold of the steering wheel and make car noises.”
Philip decided to use his passion for classic cars and rallying as a way to repay the staff for the compassion they received and, after speaking to his friend Ian, who had a similar experience, the idea for the car show was born.
Bertie meanwhile, was born almost four weeks early on February 7 2021. His mum Joanne Campbell gave birth following a difficult pregnancy.
Dad Ian explained: “Due to a very quick birth he was whisked away to neonatal as he required ventilation to help his wee lungs to work for themselves.
“Thankfully he only required 24 hours in the unit before he was transferred to the main maternity ward to be reunited with Joanne.
“Both Bertie and his mummy spent the next five days in hospital as Bertie needed observation and medication before he was fit enough to be discharged home.”
Ian says the pregnancy was “agonising” for the family, as the the many urgent hospital visits during Joanne’s pregnancy were hampered by the ongoing Covid restrictions at the time.
“When I got the call that the baby was on its way, it was so unexpected. I was able to be reunited with my wife again and be by her side for the birth of our son. The greatest feeling I have ever experienced and one I will never forget.”
He added: “The neonatal staff were amazing and weren’t rushing me away, letting me spend as much time as I wanted with my wee son.
“Joanne and I will never forget the care all the staff gave to us all and we will be forever grateful to them.”
Ian says that when Philip approached him about the car show, as a petrol head himself, he couldn’t resist getting involved!
He added: “My love of cars is still as strong as ever and this has certainly been passed on to Bertie, who takes advantage of every opportunity he can to sit behind the wheel of our cars – making the same ‘brum brum’ noises I used to do!”