Magic tale of Little Daniel

Forget Harry Potter, little Daniel has earned the nickname “the boy who lived”.

The tiny bub became so desperately ill on Christmas Eve that not even the experienced doctors at the Royal Children’s Hospital thought he would survive.

But, in an incredible story of teamwork, a group of surgeons pulled off a remarkable feat and saved the Sunshine boy’s life.

Daniel already faced an uphill battle in life when he was born early at just 26 weeks. As mum Deanna explained, Daniel became sick two days before Christmas and she and her husband took him to emergency at Sunshine Hospital.

But his condition rapidly deteriorated with what later turned out to be a twisted bowel and severe infection.

He was rushed from Sunshine Hospital to the Royal Children’s, where the then five-month-old needed immediate bowel and chest surgery.

The couple were told Daniel needed exploratory surgery to figure out what was making him so desperately ill.

“We were just in shock,” Deanna said. “They said: ‘We could not do the surgery, but it’s not going to be a good outcome.’”

It was only later the family realised the full extent.

“He was so unwell they couldn’t transport him to the OR (operating room),” Deanna said.

“So they did the surgery in a PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) room on the stretcher bed that he came to the hospital on. They did exploratory surgery and found the twisted bowel, but at the same time the heart surgeon put his heart and lungs on bypass so they could rest, using an ECMO (extra corporeal membrane oxygenation) machine.

“I thought: ‘You guys are amazing’.”

Royal Children’s Hospital pediatric surgeon Joe Crameri said performing the simultaneous chest and bowel surgery was the only way to save Daniel’s life.

“They basically hooked the heart up so that the blood flow could be redirected through a machine that can oxygenate the blood outside the body … to keep his brain working and keep him alive,” he said. “It is an amazing story of survival and also a great story of teamwork because otherwise this boy had no chance.”

Daniel has continued to need significant treatment at the Royal Children’s over the months since, but the family will never forget their Christmas miracle.

“It is beyond amazing that Daniel survived,” Deanna said. “It’s a miracle the PICU were able to help him make it through it and now every day he wakes up with a smile we are thankful for everyone who helped save him.”

To help children like Daniel, support the Royal Children’s Hospital through the Good Friday Appeal.

Written by Jen Kelly
Images by David Caird
Published in the Herald Sun 15th March 2024

Our Newsletter

Everything Good Friday Appeal, straight to your inbox. Get more information about your impact and how to get involved.