Community breakfast brings hope for parents of little Peter James

Pic to come and some in mediagrid

A MAMMOTH community effort which raised over £1,000 for a baby charity has helped ease the pain for a Laurencetown couple who lost their newborn son in September.

Members of Banbridge Seventh-day Adventist pulled out all the stops to organise a fund-raising community breakfast for Michelle Reynolds and Peter Milton, with proceeds supporting the work of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia UK.

The couple’s baby son, Peter James, lived for only one hour due to the condition which affects one in 2,000 to 5,000 infants when the diaphragm is malformed in the womb.

Michelle, who lives in Laurencetown her her fiancee Peter and four year-old daughter Katie, said she was “overwhelmed” by the response from 120 supporters who attended the event held a couple of weeks ago.

“It was a fantastic response and I can’t thank everyone enough,” said Michelle. “It has given us such a boost after the shock of losing Peter James. Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia is not that well known a condition among new parents, so anything the charity does to support them and to raise awareness is great.”

Unfortunately, Peter James presented with extreme symptoms - the condition can sometimes be treated by surgery - and died one hour after birth in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

“We were in shock as we didn’t know there had been anything wrong with the baby when I was pregnant,” said Michelle. “The condition wasn’t picked up by scans and we had been looking forward to bringing home a healthy new brother for Katie. We are still waiting for the full postmortem, but Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia was diagnosed.”

Michelle believes there should be more awareness of CDH which is life-threatening and can have devastating consequences for the child, if he or she survives, and also the parents.

“Despite the fact Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia poses a serious threat to the life and wellbeing of the newborn child, the condition is not that well known, yet it is just as common as spina bifida and cystic fibrosis,” she added. “Since finding out more about the condition and discovering the charity which supports parents and raises awareness, I just wanted to be able to do something to help. I was delighted when the church decided to support us with this community breakfast.”

Local minister, Pastor Weiers Coetser, said the congregation was pleased to assist the Milton family by turning one of their regular community breakfasts into a special fund-raising one.

“There was just no way we could ignore this opportunity to support the Milton family when he heard about what had happened through a friend of Michelle’s who attends the church,” he said. “The idea soon took root and it proved a runaway success, thanks to a team of hard-working volunteers. It turned into the most successful single fund-raising event that we have had in a long time.”

One of those tasked with co-ordinating the food, facilities and advertising was Patrinne Irvine, who phoned around for a few donations and ended up being offered free bread, eggs, milk and yoghurts, as well as various vouchers from local supermarkets, shops and butchers.

“I tried to call a mushroom farmer in Rathfriland and he told me he was no longer in the business, but donated £50 to the breakfast anyway,” said Patrinne. “The support was overwhelming.”

Michelle’s sister Orla also expressed her gratitude for the large numbers who supported the event which, as well as raising much-need funds for the charity, also served to raise the spirits of her heartbroken sister and her partner.

“This was such an emotional and worthwhile day,” she said. “When something like this happens, people sometimes feel helpless and don’t know how to comfort people, but this event has really encouraged Michelle, Peter and the whole family.

“CDH-UK is all about awareness of the condition and trying to help people cope with loss and I would like to thank my sister and Peter for having the strength and courage to stand tall and proud in promoting this charity during a very difficult time.”

*The next community breakfast takes place at 10am on Sunday, 9 December, and will take the form of a Christmas-themed breakfast. An open invitation is extended to all members of the community to attend.