Baby Evie ready to celebrate first Christmas at home in Ipswich with family
PUBLISHED: 14:10 24 December 2016 | UPDATED: 14:10 24 December 2016
Baby Evie crawls around the rearranged lounge with bright-eyed enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. She has been set free after posing for several photographs with her loving parents.
She decides a photography stand is a suitable dance partner, as is my shoulder a few minutes later. A Christmas present falls off a couch during another daring adventure. Anything within reach can become a drum set.
“She is just really funny,” her father Dan Compton had remarked earlier when putting on her glittery pink hearing aids. They use sticky tape as her ear lobes are not yet fully formed.
“She pulls these really funny faces, especially this wincing one. She has just got the cutest little face.”
It is a face which helped the Ipswich family-of-three gain far-reaching support this time last year.
Evie Compton was born 12 weeks prematurely, weighing just 2lbs 10oz, while her mother, Sharon Halls, and father were on holiday, attending a wedding, in the Dominican Republic in September last year.
Unable to fly home because she was so small, the family stayed in the Caribbean for four more months. Evie was released from hospital in late October. In their apartment, they had spaghetti bolognese on Christmas Day. A teddy was Evie’s only present.
“Last year wasn’t really Christmas at all,” said Sharon. “We didn’t have a tree and didn’t have decorations. This year will be different. I am looking forward to it. We will have proper trimmings.”
They feared insurers would not cover the medical and other costs and launched a fundraising appeal. It gained the world’s attention and £75,000 was raised in a few days.
When the firm confirmed it would pay, the funds were given to charities.
They arrived back home on January 20.
Sharon, 37, said: “We were there this time last year so it’s quite hard to think back about it. I think once February is out of the way I will start to feel a bit better, because it’s still quite poignant.
“It’s a distant memory but it is always there. But it wasn’t all bad.”
Dan added: “We get reminded by pictures which crop up in our timeline [on Facebook] every now and again. It is hard for us to remember how small she really was.”
Dan’s parents are visiting for Christmas Day dinner. Beef and turkey are on the menu. Will Evie have some?
“Yes, definitely!” said Sharon. “She eats really well. She will eat most of that. She will literally take food off your plate.
“But when we try to give her medicine, she is not very good with that. I think it is almost like she has got some hidden memories from being force-fed through a syringe.”
“And many nurses in the Dominican,” dad added.
Her mum describes Evie as a very strong baby who “knows how to get her own way”.
“She is now standing, not completely unaided,” she said. “She is quite wobbly. But I don’t think it will be long before she is walking. The only thing that she is a bit behind on is perhaps the communication side of things.”
Both parents are learning sign language.
“When we say ‘stop’ and ‘no’, which is easy, she is cheeky,” said tree surgeon Dan, 36. “She just smiles back.”
Sharon continued: “She is progressing in her ability of doing stuff. For her corrected age, which is 12 months, she is doing what she should.
“She is still not really playing with toys, so for her Christmas presents, it is quite difficult to work out what to get her.
“We have got her Stickle Bricks but we don’t know whether to wrap it up. She is not really bothered. She is going to have so many other little bits.”
Nanny and Grandad were due to give her a surprise visit to Father Christmas yesterday. The Snowman and the Snowdog might be shown tomorrow.
Dan said: “If I’ve had a rubbish day at work, all I’ve got to do is look at her [Evie] and Sharon, and it makes it all better again.”
He said Evie wishes to thank everyone who has supported her during the first, eventful, 15 months of her life.
At Ipswich Hospital, sick babies and children now receive even better care thanks to the Sunrise Appeal, to which Sharon Halls and Dan Compton donated £30,000.
Funds have been used to buy resuscitation equipment, monitoring devices, specialist scopes for checking children’s eyes and ears, and a complete refurbishment of the neonatal parent bay.
A hospital spokesman said: “We were all humbled by the generosity of Evie’s mum and dad for our Sunrise Appeal.
“Thanks to everyone who has supported the appeal, we have been able to invest more than £100,000. We wish Evie and her parents a wonderful Christmas.”
Timeline in Dominican Republic
September 16, 2015: Daniel Compton and Sharon Halls arrive in the Dominican Republic for a friend’s wedding
September 28, 2015: After contracting an infection which sends her into premature labour Miss Halls gives birth to baby Evie, weighing 2lbs 10oz
October 3, 2015: The couple announce the birth on Facebook and appeal for help funding Evie’s emergency medical costs
October 5, 2015: Mr Compton and Miss Halls’ insurers confirm the costs incurred as a result of their daughter’s birth will be covered – but are told they may have to wait until December to come home
October 11, 2015: The parents are able to hold their daughter for the first time
October 23, 2015: Sharon’s mother arrives to lend some family support
October 28, 2015: A month after her birth, now weighing 2lbs 13oz and able to breathe unaided, Evie is released from hospital
November 30, 2015: Evie’s slower than expected progress means they will not be back in the UK before Christmas
December 25, 2015: They have a small Christmas celebration in their flat in the Dominican Republic
January 19, 2016: After finally getting the good news they can return home, they board a flight back to the UK