PROUD senior aircraftsman Peter McFerran weighed just 4lb 9oz when he was born eight weeks premature at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
The keen sportsman, from Connah’s Quay, was not breathing for himself, could not feed and had to be placed in an incubator attached to monitors for a fortnight in the Special Care Baby Unit.
His worried parents, Bob and Ann McFerran, were told by doctors the first three days were crucial to his survival.
Peter, whose name was chosen by his sister Elaine, then four, was due on her birthday, January 28, but he was born on November 26, 1982, about five hours after his mum went into labour at home.
“His lungs and his digestive tract hadn’t developed, he was on pure oxygen,” said Mr McFerran, now 64.
“They told me the first three days would be the worst and if he survived he would be all right. The second day we went and he had filled out and was breathing for himself. He was fed by a drip. But he was conscious of things around him.”
IT manager Mrs McFerran, 55, said: “The first time I saw him he was in an incubator. He was 4lb 9oz and the biggest on the ward. I spent every minute I could down there with him.
“On the third day we were allowed him out of the incubator if he had a warm towel around him.”
Mrs McFerran spent around a week in hospital herself after the birth so she could be close to her son, but then returned home to be with her daughter, now 28, and visited Peter several times a day.
Hospital staff took a photograph of her newborn straight away so she could keep it with her when away from him.
To thank them for what they did for Peter, his family have just made an undisclosed donation to the unit which saved his life and gave them 24 precious years with their son, who was killed by an insurgent projectile attack while serving with the RAF in Iraq in July of this year.
Our sister paper, The Flintshire Chronicle, is using this donation to start an appeal to raise £15,000 to buy an incubator for the unit in Peter’s memory.
His parents have sent a photograph of Peter to nurses on the unit to give other parents a message of hope that their babies can survive.
Mrs McFerran said: “They (the hospital staff) were wonderful. Nothing was too much trouble for them. They never stopped us from going to see him. I could go anytime and could spend all day there.
“The aftercare was good too because he had check-ups at the hospital until he was 12 months old.”
His dad added: “He ended up a lot stronger than a lot of children the same age. He never got colds or any problems like that. I think that helped him more than anything.”
Peter, 24, was a keen sportsman and joined Deeside Judo Club, Mold Rugby Club, Northop Hall hockey team and swam, interests he pursued even after joining the RAF in June 2004.
He was also “popular with the ladies” and had a dry sense of humour.
His death was a devastating blow to the family, who have also lost a number of older family members in the past year.
Mr McFerran said: “You expect old people to die, but you don’t expect someone who is 24 or 25 to die, that’s what’s really upsetting.”
He added: “Elaine said (to Ann) ‘keep an eye’ on me as I have angina ‘because I don’t want another death this year’. But I never in the world expected it to be Peter.”
In September, Peter’s parents and brother-in-law Mike went to watch the Wales-Japan rugby match – the tickets for which he’d bought shortly before his death.
The Sunday before he died he rang to see if they had arrived.
His family are proud of all his achievements and of all the good work the military is doing in Iraq, such as helping refurbish hospitals.
Mrs McFerran said: “It (the donation) was just to say thank you. We want the hospital to put the photo up to give encouragement to new families as a way of saying this is what you can achieve so other families don’t give up hope, no matter how ill their little one might be or might seem. They can survive with all the help and care of the special care nurses and doctors.”
She added: “They gave him his life. If he had had his way he would have been born on the floor here at home!”
Janet Ratcliffe, fundraising manager at the Countess of Chester Hospital, said: “We were all very moved to read the letter sent recently with a donation from Mr and Mrs McFerran and are delighted The Flintshire Chronicle has launched this appeal. We feel it is a wonderful tribute to Peter.”
Anybody wishing to donate to the appeal should send a cheque made payable to COCH NHS Charitable Funds with a covering note explaining the donation is for the Peter McFerran Incubator Appeal. For further information, call the hospital’s fundraising office on 01244 366240.