BORN weighing less than a bag of sugar, tiny Joseph Gibson has faced a battle for survival.
The Thorney Close youngster came into the world 16 weeks early, weighing just 1lb 8oz, and has spent the first 12 weeks of life in hospital.
The battling baby has still not reached his due date – January 19 – and remains in Sunderland’s neonatal unit until he becomes strong enough to be discharged.
But his family hope the new year will bring some longed-for news – that Joseph can finally come home.
Because he was born so early – at just 24 weeks into mum Gemma’s pregnancy – Joseph has chronic lung disease and his organs still need time to develop properly.
At just six weeks old he had to have an operation to close a duct in his under-developed heart.
Dad Paul Gibson, 29, and mum Gemma Miller, 27, remain at his bedside as he builds up his strength.
Paul, who is also dad to Alfie, three, said: “The doctors have said he is out of the woods now, but it was touch and go when he was born.
“Our first son was premature, but he was only in the neonatal unit for six days. Because our first-born was early we thought the second one might be as well, but we never thought he would be that early.”
He added: “Gemma started getting pains in her stomach, so she knew what it was.
“He had to go over to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle for an operation at five, six weeks because a duct in his heart hadn’t closed. So he has a scar now on the side of his body. He’s been through so much already.
“The doctors can’t make promises, but we just hope to have him home for his due date. Any time before that would be a bonus.”
Joseph now weighs 4lb 5oz and even when he is well enough to come home, it’s thought he will still require nasal oxygen.
To say thank you to the unit, Paul has teamed up with Joseph’s uncles, Ian Palfreyman and Anthony Miller, to take on the Coast to Coast cycle route.
Paul said: “The unit have done so much for us and we just wanted to give something back, especially at this time of year. It costs so much money to look after all the kids they have in there, and they do a great job.”
The team is looking for businesses to help complete the 131-mile ride from Whitehaven in Cumbria to Roker in Sunderland.
Anyone who wants to sponsor the team or who has any cycle equipment they could donate, can contact Paul on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07592 966349.