“When your life is turned upside down like ours was, it really highlights the fact that life is too short,” says David Keir. Here, David and Juanita share the story of their baby Asher, the incredible legacy created in his memory and how “Asher’s Gift” continues to make a difference thanks to the Humpty Dumpty Foundation.
At first, little Asher Keir’s birth seemed straightforward. His mum, Juanita, had been induced and he arrived weighing 2.7kg. But almost immediately after his arrival, things took a turn. Asher was quickly moved to the resus table unresponsive and struggling to breathe.
“It’s a unique kind of emotional roller-coaster to have the joy of having watched your wife courageously give birth to your son, only to feel a helpless fear immediately following as the crash team is called in to save your baby’s life,” recalls Asher’s dad, David.
A nasogastric tube could not be passed to Asher’s stomach and after specialist consultation, the team rightfully suspected a Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TOF), a congenital malformation where the oesophagus does not connect normally to the stomach, yet the trachea abnormally does. This needs immediate surgery and without it, a baby’s chances are nil.
Asher was urgently transferred by helicopter from Port Macquarie to the John Hunter Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Newcastle with NSW Newborn and Paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS). Juanita was unable to travel with him having just given birth, and the logistics of David travelling with Asher to Newcastle in the middle of a COVID lockdown was another challenge.
Despite medical and logistics teams giving their all, Asher’s story has a heartbreaking ending. He soldiered on with the help of breathing equipment, but during surgery to repair his TOF, Asher’s tiny body sustained injuries he could not survive. That afternoon, Asher was again transferred by helicopter from Newcastle to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, where further testing confirmed the worst.
“We sat with Asher and cried like never before. I stared at him, trying to reconcile in my mind how he could be laying there so peacefully, yet without any chance of survival.”– Juanita Keir.
Late that night in Juanita’s arms Asher started to decelerate, yet he stayed until the clock ticked over to 18 August, David’s birthday. As David and Juanita’s tears ran dry, Asher’s life support was switched off and the family said goodbye, having known their baby boy for just three days.
In the face of such unimaginable grief, it’s difficult to imagine putting one foot in front of the other. But in the hours after losing Asher, Juanita and David knew exactly what they wanted to do.
“Giving is very important to Juanita and I,” says David. “We wanted Asher to have a legacy – to impact others positively so that his short life would not be a waste.” They set up a donation page called Asher’s Gift and with friends, family and their community raised over $30,000 for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, which donated multiple pieces of medical equipment back to their local regional hospital.
“We are forever grateful to our friends and family who rallied in this time of heartache to raise these funds, and it really did bring a glimmer of hope to our broken hearts.”
There is a heart-warming postscript to the Keir family’s story: Taking some time to heal and process their grief Juanita, David and their daughter Lavali took a road trip around Australia. The family returned to Port Macquarie 12 months later feeling renewed and were thrilled to learn that Juanita was pregnant.
After an understandably anxious wait and the outstanding care of the Port Macquarie Base Hospital antenatal and midwifery team, their daughter Vela was born in March of this year. During their hospital stay following Vela’s birth, the family was able to see for the first time some of the equipment Asher’s Gift had donated to their local hospital.
About the Humpty Dumpty Foundation
Humpty Dumpty Foundation provides lifesaving medical equipment to sick kids in hospitals across Australia.
In regional areas, a lack of neonatal/paediatric equipment and resources often necessitates a newborn or child be transferred to a larger hospital, causing delays in treatment and extreme stress on families and medical teams.
The Humpty Dumpty Foundation’s impact extends beyond providing equipment. It exists to help kids in hospital access the healthcare they need, no matter where they live. It also keeps families closer by helping children recover closer to home.
Humpty supports and empowers healthcare workers in city hospitals as well as rural and remote communities, helping them provide vital care.
When you choose to donate to Humpty, you will help Australian children benefit from the best healthcare and equipment, faster.
Give Australian children the gift of equal healthcare this Christmas and beyond.
Donate today at 1300 486 789 (1300 HUMPTY) or at humpty.org.au
Donations are 100% tax deductible.