Youngster who underwent life-saving surgery TWICE inspires fundraising campaign to help families of other poorly children

Meet the amazing 18 month old who has battled back to life and done it with a constant smile on her face.

Tuesday, 6th August 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th August 2019, 7:05 am
Parents Katie and Billy Finch with twins Joe and Phoebe Finch.

Phoebe Finch underwent two life-saving surgeries and suffered two cardiac arrests, a stroke and a seizure, all before she was six months old.

The brave little girl and twin brother Joe were born at Sunderland Royal Hospital on February 4, 2018, arriving into the world weighing just 2lb 12oz at just 32 weeks.

The pair were initially kept in the neonatal unit, but Phoebe then developed Necrotising Enterocolitis – a condition which meant that part of her bowl was dying.

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Phoebe Finch is now back home and able to spend time with twin brother Joe.

She was rushed to the Royal Victoria Infirmary’s (RVI) special care baby unit where doctors discovered that her bowl had perforated and its contents were leaking into her body.

The brave youngster required emergency surgery to remove most of the bowl, leaving her with Short Bowel Syndrome – which means she now needs a feeding peg in her tummy for medication and fluids.

Phoebe spent more than six weeks in the hospital with parents Katie and Billy Finch by her side.

It was there that the family came into contact with charity Tiny Lives which provided the family with a funded room on the unit so they could be close to their daughter.

Phoebe Finch as a newborn and later in hospital receiving treatment.

Mum Katie Finch, from Moore Crescent North, Houghton, said: “Tiny Lives at the RVI gave us a place to stay at 2am in the morning when she was transferred so we didn’t have to worry about finding and funding accommodation.

“They also fed us when the last thing we wanted to do was eat and gave us a paid parking pass so we didn’t need to worry about rising car parking costs.”

But Phoebe, who was born with condition Pulmonary Atresia with VSDS – a form of heart disease coupled by a hole in the wall separating the two lower chambers of the heart – then suffered a cardiac arrest and was transferred to the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital.

She went on to have open heart surgery and had a stent put in her pulmonary artery.

Then, after spending 193 days in hospital, the brave youngster was allowed home for the first time in August 2018, aged six months.

Mum Katie said: “Her short bowel syndrome means she doesn’t absorb nutrients and fats the way we do so she will always need some form of additional calorie supplement, it also means she hasn’t grown or put on weight the same way her brother has, at 18 months old she only weighs 7.3 kilo (16lb).

“She isn’t walking yet but is trying, but with her heart condition she doesn’t saturate (oxygen levels in her body) at 100% the way we do so she tires easily.

“In the future we hope to have her peg removed, but that will only happen if she can maintain her weight without the need for it for top up feeds.

“We know she'll need more open heart surgeries as she grows as the stent will need replacing, the leak around the patch will need closing, but we are hoping to get her to reception age before her next need for surgery.”

Nursery officer Katie and dad Billy, a HGV chemical container driver, are now fundraising for Tiny Lives, the Children’s Heart Unit (CHUF) and The Sick Children’s Trust in an effort to thank them for helping to cope while their daughter was in hospital.

Katie added: “The Sick Children’s Trust at the Freeman provided a funded room for as long as we needed it while she was in intensive care unit and thee high dependency unit after her surgeries, so we didn’t have to make the 40 mile round trip every day and could be close to her.

“CHUF were such a fundamental part of Phoebe’s recovery.

“They fund equipment, research and training and provided nursery nurses so when I had Joe with me we could go to music time and do activities on the unit.

“As a parent you forget about looking after yourself, so CHUF pay for a beautician to go onto the unit to pamper the parents.

“All of these charities help take away some of the stresses of having a child in hospital long term.

“Financially, we still had bills to pay, so having a free place to stay, a free parking pass and free meals took away some of the stress of money worries.”

Now back home, Phoebe is on the road to recovery.

Although she will need more heart surgery in the future, her family hope that her feeding peg could eventually be moved if she can maintain her weight.

Katie continued: “We want to raise money so we can give something back.

“There are so many families we met through our journey who were also supported by these charities.

“By raising money we feel we are helping the next parent who is now or will be in the same situation we were in.”

So far the family have raised more than £4,500 in total CHUF, Tiny Lives and the Sick Children’s Trust.

A Go Fund Me Page online to raise funds, to donate visit: