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Jun, 2024

Callyn’s Marathon Hospital Journey

Could you handle being told 4-5 times your child might not make it? That is what Karleen and her husband went through when their baby boy was born at only 25 weeks.


Nine months. Nine long, heart-wrenching months. That’s how long baby Callyn stayed in the hospital, fighting for his life after he was born at only 25 weeks. Spending 106 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) then spending another 174 days in the Children’s Critical Care Unit (CCCU), Callyn now holds the record for the longest stay for a baby born at Gold Coast University Hospital. His marathon journey however began before he was born, during a difficult pregnancy that had his mother, Karleen, on bed rest for two weeks.

Karleen and her husband, Gold Coast locals, already had a bustling household with five children. But nothing could have prepared them for the rollercoaster ride that began on August 22, 2023, when Callyn was born unexpectedly.

At just 25 weeks Callyn was fragile, weighing a tiny 780 grams. Karleen remembers looking down at her baby boy for the first time and noticing the outline of Callyn’s organs, visible through his translucent skin. It was only the start of the shock and nightmares the family would need to overcome.

Karleen described their days in the NIUC and Critical Care Unit as confronting, emotional and terrifying.

“It is confronting. It’s very emotional. It’s scary. Going home and panicking every time your phone rings because you can never turn it off and you don’t know who is on the other end of the call. It’s living in fear. It’s your worst nightmare.” Said Karleen.

Callyn’s journey was fraught with close calls, and seeing others suffer through harrowing heartbreak made them grateful for each day with Callyn. Multiple times, the doctors held family meetings to prepare Karleen and her husband for the worst. They were told Callyn might not make it through the night.

“We were told four or five times that he wasn’t going to make it. He was just hanging on. My husband and I watched the screen and we saw the stats drop 90, 80, 70 and we thought this is it. He is going to die, but the hospital staff did everything they could to keep him alive.” Said Karleen.

Karleen and her husband are incredibly grateful for the support they received from the doctors, nurses, orderlies and the cleaners. The staff at the hospital became like family, helping not just with medical care but also involving their other children, creating a nurturing environment.

After 9 months, it was time for Callyn to be discharged, however the need for constant monitoring was still required. This is where the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation, through generous donations, was able to help. Callyn was gifted an Owlet Monitor, a special smart sock, worn on Callyn’s foot, to help monitor his heart rate, oxygen level, and sleep trends, providing invaluable peace of mind for Karleen and her husband.

“It means everything to us to be able to take the Owlet Monitor home. We’re so appreciative to everyone who donates to Gold Coast Hospital Foundation. It means everything to us to have access to this critical piece of medical equipment. We can’t thank them enough. It has a camera and a monitor. I can open my phone and see his heartrate and his oxygen levels. I won’t have to sit beside him and wonder if he is breathing or not. It means we will be able to sleep because he will be constantly monitored.” Said Karleen.

When you’re running the marathon this year, we hope you can reflect on Callyn’s own marathon journey and it will give you inspiration to keep going. We encourage you to reach out to your networks and raise funds for local patients, just like Callyn, who need our help to get home from hospital.

Right now, we have over 1000 people signed up to fundraise for Gold Coast Hospital Foundation, which is just incredible! If every person managed to raise just $100 we would reach over $100,000 to help Gold Coast locals. This monumental amount could help us save lives like baby Callyn’s and provide critical services for our local community.

If you need some help with fundraising ideas, please contact us! Our fundraising team is here to help you smash your fundraising goals. Email fundraising@gchfoundation.org.au or call (07) 5594 6986.


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