Santa Claus will be paying a very special visit to Milltown this year to one-year-old baby Jack.
hough it is his second Christmas, Jack was very ill this time last year, so 2020 is a very special year for him and his parents, David Richards and Nikita Gamble.
Though Jack’s battles are far from over, the little Milltown boy is continuing to improve since he began dialysis just two months ago.
Born with chronic kidney failure – his kidneys failed to develop while he was in the womb – Jack will, in the future, need a kidney transplant.
However, in the interim, the ‘little trooper’ has begun dialysis at home in Kerry, allowing him and his family to return home after almost eight months in and out of Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
“Now we only have to go for check-ups,” David says. “This is nearly like our first Christmas, we were home last year but only for a few days as Jack’s bloods were always changing without dialysis and we were in and out of hospital.
“We spent months up and down from Dublin, but he started dialysis in October.”
It has been a long and difficult road for Jack and his parents. They found out just weeks before he was born that his kidneys had not formed and “it was touch and go if he would make it or not”.
Showing a fighting spirit, Jack was born weighing 5lbs 11 ounces in the Coombe Hospital. He was immediately transferred to Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
“It was a crazy time but he just went from strength to strength,” says David.
This was the family’s first encounter with the Kerry branch of the Irish Kidney Association, whose kindness and support were crucial to the family, not least in providing accommodation in one of their support houses before Jack’s birth.
“They just gave me a key to the room and said that it was mine until I had to go home. A hotel would have been €100 a night and we had a long road ahead. It was such a massive help,” David says.
Jack was born on November 19 – coincidentally, the same day as David’s grandfather, Jack, the little boy’s namesake, who died on the same date six years previously.
After a long year which included two serious operations, Jack is getting stronger every day, and starting dialysis will further transform his life.
“It has been a tough year but now he has come out the other side. He is a trooper and an inspiration of all of us,” David says.
Though he is only a year old, Jack has to face dialysis six nights a week for 10 hours a night, administered by David and Nikita, who have been on a steep learning curve but are just thrilled that Jack is home and doing well. He has to reach certain development milestones before being eligible to join the donor transplant list, so it will be a few years before he can go that route. In the meantime, the focus is on ensuring that Jack gets the best care possible.
Nikita, who was a hair-dresser at Sean Taaffe’s in Killarney, has given up work to look after Jack, and both her and David have learned how to set up the dialysis machine – a process that takes 40 minutes every night. Jack is also pump-fed, and his weight and blood pressure must be monitored regularly.
“It is all normal now,” says David. “Jack is getting stronger and more aware…He is in brilliant form, not a patch on him, it is his normal life,” says David.
David and Nikita have nothing but praise for the IKA, who have helped them so much and continue to do so. They also want to appeal to everyone to remember the ‘Gift of Life’ this Christmas and carry a donor card. David hopes to be able to donate a kidney to Jack but, if not, they will depend on the kindness of organ donors.
Having gone through one of the most difficult years in their lives, they now hope to relax and enjoy Christmas 2020 at home in Milltown and celebrate a bright future for their family.