FOR most, the birth of a first child is a time for happiness and celebration.

Sadly, for some families, it can come with heartbreak, tears and grief.

Johnstone couple Abbey MacFarlane and Mark Maxwell had to make a decision no parent should have to bear when they agreed to turn off newborn son Andrew’s life support just 22 days after he was born.

The tot was delivered by C-section at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, in Paisley, but within hours had to be rushed to Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children, due to concerns over his breathing.

The Gazette: Proud dad Mark Maxwell with AndrewProud dad Mark Maxwell with Andrew

Despite their best efforts, doctors were unable to find a solution and Andrew’s condition worsened rapidly, leaving Abbey, 22, and Mark, 37, with a heartbreaking choice to make.

Tragically, their baby boy passed away in his dad’s arms on October 30 last year.

Now, as they continue to grieve, Abbey has decided to take on a charity challenge to coin in cash for staff who were there for the young family in their most desperate hour of need.

“We had actually just got engaged a couple of days before when I found out I was pregnant in February,” Abbey told The Gazette. “It wasn’t planned and a bit of a shock but we were looking forward to becoming parents.

“I had never been pregnant before but all of the advice said not to worry if the baby is moving but we think he was actually having seizures.

“We didn’t know anything about it and went for a check-up and it turned out he wasn’t in the right position.

“That was at about 20 weeks and we then discovered he had club foot.

“We saw about three different consultants who then checked him for other conditions, such as Down’s syndrome, but the results all showed he didn’t have anything like that.

“Then, at around 34 weeks, I started having really bad cramps and so we went to the hospital.

“They had a look and weren’t happy, as he wasn’t moving at all. The consultant actually said it was only the second time in 30 years or so he had ever seen anything like it.”

Abbey was just 34 weeks into her pregnancy when the decision to deliver Andrew was taken.

The Gazette: Andrew lived for just 22 daysAndrew lived for just 22 days

“At that stage, they didn’t think he was going to die and believed he would still be okay,” she said.

“It all went really quickly from there and, after an hour or so, they told us he’d have to be moved to the Royal Hospital for Children, in Glasgow, so they took us in an ambulance.

“They said his breathing wasn’t great and it was at that time they said there was a possibility he might not make it.

“He actually never opened his eyes and we now think he had pneumonia, which is why he deteriorated so quickly.”

Abbey, a fraud investigator, continued: “We were told we might have to take him off life support and we would have to make that decision.

“We had already talked about it in the days before, as we actually met a couple who had to make the same choice as us, so it was on our minds.

“We decided that, if it came to it, we would make the decision to switch it off.”

Throughout the couple’s time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Abbey was taken aback by the compassion and care she received.

It inspired her to sign up for the Supernova Kelpies 5k run, which takes place next month, in aid of the hospital unit.

“Everyone in the hospital was just so amazing for us,” said Abbey.

“You don’t actually realise the job they do until you have been in that situation. You don’t know the half of it until it is you and your family.

“We are so grateful for what they did for us.

“For example, Laura, who was Andrew’s nurse for the first three nights, called in on her days off to see how he was getting on. There was also Sayeed, who looked after him for his final few days and while he passed away. He could not have been any more attentive to us.

“We asked if it could be done quickly, so Andrew wasn’t in pain for longer than he had to be, and they moved stuff around so we could be seen first.

The Gazette: Abbey with her fiancé MarkAbbey with her fiancé Mark

“They were brilliant and we wouldn’t have been able to go through it all without them.

“People always think this is the sort of thing that won’t happen to them but, believe me, it can happen to anyone.”

The Supernova Kelpies series takes place from March 20 to 22 and attracts thousands of runners.

You can support Abbey’s fundraising efforts by making a donation online by visiting her JustGiving page.

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