Stephen and Amy Smith became parents for the fourth time on December 17, 2014. Their daughter, Poppy, was born at 29-weeks-gestation and weighed only two pounds.
Poppy spent the first three months of her life in the neonatal ward, where doctors warned her development could be delayed.
They said she may never learn to walk or talk normally but the baby girl was a fighter.
Poppy was diagnosed with Moebius syndrome, which means her face muscles don’t work properly. When she eats, she often dribbles her food, but she was otherwise a primarily healthy child.
The Smiths were happy to surprise her doctors, each of whom was pleased with the little girl’s progress – until one December night, mere days from her second birthday.
Amy went to wake her daughter from a nap but little Poppy couldn’t be roused.
Frightened, Amy called Stephen. They could feel her heart beating but she was entirely unresponsive.
“She was breathing,” Stephen told The Sun, “but she was sort of gasping for air.”
The Smiths rushed Poppy to Barrow In Furness General Hospital, where doctors attempted to stabilize her. They then sent the baby to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Poppy was unresponsive but, thankfully, breathing on her own.
“She couldn’t feel anything and wasn’t responding to a [flashlight] being shone in her eyes,” Stephen described. “We held her, but she was just staring right through us. I’ve never felt pain like that in my life. The heartache was unreal.”
That Christmas, the Smiths gathered their other children, 11-year-old Alfie, twelve-year-old Macey and 14-year-old Elisha. They decided to celebrate Christmas at the hospital with Poppy, as it could be her last.
“We went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve and lit candles for her,” Stephen explained. “I asked the priest if he could come and give her a blessing.”
On Christmas day, Poppy was moved to a High Dependency Unit, where the family went to spend time with her. The Smith parents tried to encourage their children to celebrate as best they could but quietly worried Poppy wouldn’t survive to see the next holiday.
Then Macey blew a raspberry on Poppy’s tiny tummy – and Poppy laughed.
“That was the amazing moment when she laughed,” Stephen recalled. “…It was astonishing. We found out afterwards that it wasn’t uncommon for people in this state to show emotion, but to us it seemed like she was responding.
“Then there were little twitches on her arms and legs. Doctors said it could be spinal reflexes, but I felt like it was so much more.”
“We just want to raise money to try and get her a bit more help and we don’t want to waste any time,” Stephen added. The campaign has raised over half its goal this month and Poppy continues to grow stronger.
This post was published on March 1, 2017 3:38 pm
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