Jack, 2, Luke and Kristy Morrow pick up son Samuel Morrow from his first day of kindergarden.
Jack, 2, Luke and Kristy Morrow pick up son Samuel Morrow from his first day of kindergarden. Adam Hourigan

The fighter who refused to give up his battle

JUST under six years ago Samuel Morrow struggled to open his eyes for the first time. At 15 weeks premature Samuel was born at 990g and not given much chance to survive.

His parents, Kristy and Luke Morrow, were told their son would not leave the hospital and to cherish every extra minute of life they got with him.

For at least four months Samuel held the title of most critically ill child at Mater Mothers Hospital in Brisbane but yesterday, against all odds, Samuel completed his first day of school at St Joseph’s Primary, South Grafton.

And his parents could not be prouder of what their “little miracle” has achieved.

The road to good health has been a long one for young Samuel.
The road to good health has been a long one for young Samuel. Contributed

“Samuel was eight years in the making, and when we did have him he was such a critically ill boy,” Mrs Morrow said. “His first day at school was a day that we did not dare envisage.

“We were told on more than one occasion in hospital that we would not be taking him home from the hospital, but Samuel did not read the rule books – babies don’t come home from hospital in four litres of oxygen and pull through but he did.”

Defying the odds and defeating expectations has become almost second nature for Samuel, who refused to give up his fight for life.

“He has rewritten the rule book. He doesn’t like to be told no,” Mrs Morrow said. “He is now just like every other five-year-old boy but it was not always that way.

“Basically he spent 102 days in critical care, and then we were put upstairs in a private ward because the doctors suggested he had mere hours to live.

“His father and I climbed into a single bed with this tiny boy in between us to go to sleep. When we awoke we didn’t expect our little man to still be with us but the first thing I saw were these beautiful eyes staring back at me.

Tiny Samuel Morrow in intensive care.
Tiny Samuel Morrow in intensive care. Contributed

“Hours became days, and days became a week. Eventually the doctor said why don’t you take him home. We have very much lived on a precipice for a long time with him knowing that anything can happen but he gets better and better each year.”

It was not smooth sailing for Samuel after he left the hospital. He needed an oxygen tank for the first two years of his life. His mother can remember times where she would take him swimming at the local pools with his oxygen tank floating in a makeshift boat behind him.

Yesterday marked a major milestone for Samuel as he attended his first day of his school life – and it was not just a big day for the five-year-old but also for his parents.

“We are so incredibly proud to see him go to school,” Mrs Morrow said. “He did participate in the St Joseph’s transitions program last year – so the whole school environment is not as new to him as it might be for other students, which is a bonus.

“He was all emotions in the morning, he was excited but also a bit anxious. He kept saying to me “Mum, I’m not six yet, do I really need to go”.

“I am incredibly proud, but I do hold a touch of sadness that he is not around and has started what will be his life for the next 13 years.

“The house is a little bit quieter now and his younger brother Jack now has to wrestle with the dog instead of Samuel.”

With his first day of school, it also marks the time where his parents have to let go a little bit.

“I am a little bit worried with sending him to school more in regards to illnesses being around him,” Mrs Morrrow said. “Especially when you get people who can be quite lax in regards to vaccinations.

“His poor little immune system does struggle more than others to get rid of viruses. He was not really out there in the community until he was past the age of two. By lessening the contact he had with the outside world that was our greatest strength

“We have as parents always been able to intervene and protect him from illness but we need to just let go of another layer of the cotton wool.”

For a good part of Samuel’s early childhood his parents lived minute by minute and day by day and never saw this moment as a possibility but now that he is at school they believe he can do anything.

“His prognosis was never good – you never looked that far ahead, we were only taking minute by minute,” Mr Morrow said. “But it’s in these moments that we pinch ourselves. It is just like a normal outlook now.”

For other families who are facing similar experiences to what the Morrows, the couple has one simple message – “never give up hope”.

“One of our mottos is ‘where there is great love there is great hope’. To us that means we love him dearly and waited so long for him to come into our lives. We never gave up hope, we never lost faith,” Mrs Morrow said.

As for Samuel, he couldn’t have been happier with day one at school. He had fun and made made friends.

“Can I come back again?” he asked his parents as he raced into their arms.

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