At 4.35pm on Wednesday, August the 28th, 2013, our son Jay took his last breath. He hadn't had many - four days' worth, in fact - but when we said goodbye, after an afternoon holding, washing and talking to him, it felt like he'd been with us for a heck of a lot longer.
He and his twin brother Cormac arrived some three months plus ahead of schedule, and that was just too much for Jay. Despite overcoming a series of challenges and showing signs of recovery, he finally succumbed to a devastating bleed on his brain. We won't forget the phrase "Grade 4 Intraventricular Haemorrhage" in a hurry.
A week later, owing to a pair of very poorly lungs, we were told Cormac's life was under threat too.
Then, bit by bit, he began to fight back. After two weeks we heard him cry for the first time. Then, with a little help, we had our first (very nervous) cuddle.
He worked his way through four different breathing support machines, endured several infections, two viruses, two hernia operations, a lumbar puncture and all sorts of brain, chest and MRI scans, blood tests, eye exams, prods and pokes and a stash of unpronounceable drugs. He had a stormy course, but after 95 days under the heroic care of the nurses, doctors and consultants of the St Michael's Neonatal Care Unit, he came home.
Home. At last. On Elly's birthday.
He's delicate, small, and still needs a bunch of drugs, but each burp, puke, wail and occasional smile feels like a bit of a gift. Even at 4am when we've had no sleep.*
It's sometimes sad to look at Cormac and feel Jay's shadow on him, but it's a happy, happy miracle he's here at all. That miracle was not only due to the medical care he received, but the tireless support of our friends and family and Cots for Tots - who fundraise for the unit and provided us with no-questions free accommodation just a stone's throw from where the twins were being looked after. Heck, they even washed our pants.
That, coupled with an incubator that costs about a grand a day, medication that costs a grand a shot and the zillions of procedures, equipment and people that helped put us - and him - back on our feet, means that the least we can do is say thank you.
We'll list a few of the events and fundraisers (yep, we're coming for your wallets) we'll be doing here, but for now, we'd just like to say thank you to everyone who played a part, big or small, in our lives over the last few months. Not much matters in life, really - friends, family, cricket maybe, theatre at a push - and that's been brought sharply into focus for us now.
I know we've asked a lot of you recently, but if you have a few spare quid, or less, and could take thirty seconds to hit that big old DONATE button, we can help out the brilliant, brilliant charity that were such a source of comfort and support to our little family.
Saved our lives, in fact.
Joe, Elly, Cormac x
*not strictly true
**A quick update, 24/9/15:
Just ten days ago, on Mon 14 Sept, in the very same surgical theatre where Jay and Cormac were born, little Peggy also came into the world, all flushed pink skin and flailing limbs. She was 30 minutes off her due date. And not an incubator was to be seen...