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Clayton parents of tragic baby boy tell of their joy and agony
Parents of a “beautiful and amazing” baby who spent all of his short life in hospital say the seven months he was with them were the best of their lives.
Vincent Junior Canning weighed only 1lb 9oz when he was born on February 1, but the tiny baby made a huge impact on all who met him, with many of the nurses and doctors who cared for him at his funeral last week.
Clareece Barrett and Luke Canning’s only wish was to bring their son home and place him in his moses basket, but that journey was only made after his death.
In the two weeks following, family and friends raised more than £4,000 for the neonatal unit at Bradford Royal Infirmary and Clareece will choose how it is spent.
Vincent was born 11 weeks early on February 1 by ceasarean, as he was not developing properly due to a problem with the placenta.
Clareece, 21, said: “There wasn't much to him. When I first saw him, it was unbelievable. I was so excited to meet him. I was laid there having my caesarean stitched up and they were messing about at the side figuring out what breathing support he needed.
“When they were ready to take him away to the neonatal unit, they brought me to the side of the cot to see him.
“I just remember crying with happiness and smiling so much. I was so happy, I didn't think of the consequences of what went wrong.”
Doctors were honest about Vincent's prognosis.
“They've got to tell you how it is. They can't lie and give you false hope and at the time it was a 50/50 chance,” she said.
Luke, a Lance Corporal in the First Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, was in Kenya when Clareece was told their baby would have to be born early. He returned home two days before the birth.
The 27-year-old said: “I had a bit of a breakdown, being so far away. I had loads of stuff running through my mind. When she told me originally, I thought he or she was going to die. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Vincent struggled to breathe and was put on a ventilator for five and a half weeks with a tube into his body – something a baby would ideally be on for a few days as it can damage the lungs. In that time Clareece was only able to hold her baby twice. The second time she held him, swaddled in a wrap around her chest, she spent an hour cuddling him.
“I started kissing him and I couldn’t stop because he was so warm, I was smiling so much. That’s a beautiful memory,” the hairdresser said.
“That five and a half weeks felt like a lifetime. I was expecting the worst. Luke stayed positive, saying he’s going to get better and better.”
Vincent proved to be a fighter, attempting press-ups to wriggle free of his tubes and his parents say he achieved so much in the weeks that followed, overcoming rhinovirus three times and a problem with his heart. The couple have dozens of photographs showing his progress.
“He had a very serious look, but he was so angelic looking,” Clareece said. “He was beautiful. All of his expression was in his eyes and eyebrows. He had these amazing big blue eyes and he liked to stare at people, he was nosey. We caught him properly smiling three times.”
On March 11, Vincent came off ventilation and was put on to biphasic ventilation, when a mask helped him breathe, and then a continuous positive airway pressure machine a few weeks later as he improved.
When he was ten weeks old he went on to the last device, vapotherm, where he had a tube with nasal prongs attached to him.
Vincent seemed to be improving and the family celebrated his six-month birthday. He even tasted some icing from his celebration cake.
“Weeks and weeks went by. He had loads of different problems, but we thought we were bringing him home,” Clareece said.
Luke was sent to serve with his regiment in Germany in July. Vincent was doing better and they were hopeful he would soon be home, but almost immediately Luke had to return home to Tenter Hill, Clayton.
As the baby grew bigger and stronger, his lungs could not keep up and he died having reached 10lb 3oz.
“We really weren’t expecting that, not with how far he’d got,” said Clareece. “And the staff weren’t either. He’d been there such a long time and they loved him.
On August 10, the couple were preparing to say goodbye to Vincent and have their first bath with him. It was one of their biggest wishes and neonatal staff were making it happen when Vincent took his last breathe.
Clareece and Luke bathed him and dressed him smartly in their favourite outfit.
“We got to bring him home. To some people that sounds weird, but he never made it home when he was alive. He got to lay in the moses basket that had been waiting for him all that time,” Clareece said.
“It finished the journey,” Luke said.
Vincent’s parents say the support from staff at Bradford Royal Infirmary during his time there was amazing.
And enthusiasm for family fundraising for the Neonatal Unit has been equally as strong.
Dad Luke's sisters Elisha and Fiona Canning organised two events in the baby’s name following his death.
Elisha, arranged a day of activities at The Golden Fleece, Allerton, with landlady Vikki Canning.
The pub hosted a fundraiser day on August 24, which included a charity match between Allerton FC and the old Allerton FC players a raffle, barbecue, auction and children’s activities.
Mrs Canning said: “People have been fantastic. I’ve never known anything like it. The donations from businesses were amazing.”
Items given for an auction included a signed football shirt from Manchester United player Tom Cleverley, who was a schoolboy player at Bradford City.
Some lots are still to be sold and people can bid on The Little Vinne’s Fundraising Event page of Facebook until Friday.
Fiona and her staff at Ark-i-tec Hair Salon in Clayton, where Clareece works, effectively worked for free on the same day doing blow dries and hair curling. The two events raised £3,870.52.
With a collection at Vincent's funeral, £4,234.71 was raised for the unit.
Vincent’s dad, Luke Canning and friends will tackle a gruelling assault course called the Tough Mudder to raise money for premature baby charity, Bliss, this Saturday. Visit justgiving.com/Luke-Canning to sponsor him.