The heartbroken parents of a newborn baby who died on Boxing Day are fundraising to give their son "the most magical send-off".
Tiny Lucas Thomas Holt fought for his life after he was born three months premature.
But just eight weeks into his life, he contracted the dangerous infection necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) which inflames and then kills intestine tissue and sadly passed at Christmas.
Lucas’ parents, Sasha-Nicole Kerslake and Carl Holt, are now raising cash "to give our little boy the most magical send-off".
They wish for him to be buried in a white and gold coffin and be carried to the church by white horses on a carriage.
Sasha-Nicole said that they would also like to release white doves at the funeral on January 16th in St Mary’s Church, Portsmouth.
And the family hope to set off blue balloons, some inscribed with Lucas’ name.
Sasha said: "I’m feeling a bit all-over-the place. It’s going to be a very emotional day."
Lucas’ parents want to warn others about the potentially devastating impact of NEC, which affects premature or otherwise ill babies.
Little Lucas screamed in agony as his organs were ravaged by the disease, until he was left with only 5cm of living intestine tissue – which was too little for doctors to save him.
He died in the loving arms of his devastated mum.
Remembering her first baby’s short life, Sasha-Nicole, 20, from Portsmouth, told Mirror Online: "I was at home in bed when the contractions started.
"I woke up in a lot of pain a few times through the night but I thought it was just Braxton Hicks, false labour pains, and I tried to ignore it.
"My partner Carl found me crouched at the side of the bed in agony and he called an ambulance.
"I was fully dilated when I got to hospital and had to give birth immediately.
"My waters had not broken and Lucas was still in his sack when he was born on November 3, 2018.
"They’re not sure why Lucas was so premature but they thought my placenta might have ruptured.
"He was rushed straight off to an incubator so I couldn’t hold him.
"It was scary to see how small he was when I saw him three hours later. He was so premature you could see all his veins and he was attached to loads of wires, with a ventilation tube down his throat."
Despite his difficult start in life, Lucas grew stronger in hospital and things looked more positive for the family.
But just as he seemed to be turning the corner, he contracted NEC which can quickly kill vital organ tissue.
Sasha-Nicole said: "We were told he only had 24 hours to live and he was rushed to hospital in Southampton for emergency surgery.
"He was hooked up to drips and put in an induced coma, then surgeons removed more than two inches of his intestine and his appendix.
"He was still in a coma, and on drips and morphine when we saw him after the surgery.
"He had a scar running from one side of his stomach to the next.
"We were told that he had a 50/50 chance of surviving."
But the baby rallied again and Sasha-Nicole remembers the moment Lucas started to open his eyes.
Necrotising Enterocolitis – the facts
Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC) is an inflammation of the bowel (intestines) that can kill the organ tissue.
Dead intestine tissue can result in bowel perforations, which allows the intestine’s contents to leak into the stomach. This can cause a very dangerous infection.
It has a variable course ranging from feed intolerance and abdominal distension (swelling) to a sudden collapse of a baby who had previously been relatively well.
Symptoms may include poor feeding, bloating, decreased activity, blood in the stool, or vomiting of bile.
NEC is almost exclusively confined to newborn babies and it is particularly common in premature infants and those with other medical problems.
Premature and other sick newborn babies have immature and fragile bowels which leaves them vulnerable to the disease.
Surveys suggest that ‘confirmed NEC’ occurs in around 3 in 10,000 babies.
Sources: Great Ormond Street Hospital and Southampton Children’s Hospital
She said: "He had these big, beautiful dark eyes. He was tiny but so perfect.
"He seemed to be getting stronger and he was moved out of his incubator and into an open cot in a ward with other children.
"He started getting poorly on December, 23, but I thought it must just be a cold because lots of the other babies there were sick.
"Then on December, 26, he got very ill. He was screaming in pain for five hours, his tube feed wasn’t going down and his temperature was going up.
"Xrays showed a shadow on his lung and his intestines were dilated. They said the NEC was back. He was put on a ventilator and called for an emergency operation.
"Surgeons said he had a 20% chance of survival. They said to prepare for the worst but hope for the best.
"One hour in they said he needed 200cm of live intestine for them to operate, but he only had 5cm left.
"They couldn’t do anything more for him and told us we needed to say our goodbyes.
"They took us into a family room and took Lukas off the ventilator. He looked so ill.
"A few minutes later he passed away in our arms. And then all I felt was emptiness.
"We were allowed to stay in the room with him. We gave him his first bath and dressed him.
"Then they took him to the chapel of rest. They took his hand and foot prints and gave us some of his hair.
"I had never heard of NEC before and it’s so rare that there were no leaflets on it at the hospital. There are no known cures or causes for it but it affects premature babies."
To donate to their fund, click here.
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