FREDDIE the fighter earned his name before he had even drawn his first breath.
At 20 weeks gestation, he was diagnosed with ParvoVirus B19, known as slap cheek which, although common in children, can be fatal in pregnancy.
Parents, Mike Samulewski, a computer and business teacher at Haslingden High School, and his wife Sarah, an architects’ office manager, had IVF treatment and Freddie was the only viable egg.
They were horrified when a scan showed their son had a large build up of fluid around his heart and Mr Samulewski, who has taught at the school for nine years, said: “We were told that it was unlikely to be treatable as it looked like it was a genetic issue with the foetus and to consider a termination. Thankfully, blood tests came back showing that Freddie had contracted the virus which meant there was hope.”
A termination was the last thing they could consider.
The Samulewskis were referred to the Fetal Medicine Unit, FMU, at St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester, where a series of scans and check-ups were organised.
Every two-to-three weeks they visited the hospital where blood tests and scans revealed Freddie had severe anaemia and the virus was attacking his red blood cells and bone marrow
They were informed that he needed a blood transfusion whilst still in the womb but that carried the risk of miscarriage or worse, death.
Mr Samulewski said the doctors resorted to giving Freddie three intrauterine transfusions. The procedure took approximately 40 minutes and consisted of a needle being passed through Sarah’s stomach and into a vein on the placenta. The specialist blood was then injected and fed into Freddie, supplying him with much need red blood cells.
He said: “Freddie started to get better but then Sarah got ill with Mirror Syndrome which is very rare – everything that was wrong with Freddie had been transferred to Sarah and her organs were failing.”
Sarah was kept in hospital while the doctors spent around six week stabilising her condition, but Freddie was getting stronger by the day.
He said: “Sarah had to have bed rest, and I am grateful to Haslingden High School headteacher, Mark Jackson for giving me the time off.
“We were in and out of hospital three times a week and had more than 60 scans of Freddie.
“Doctors named him Freddie the Fighter before he was even born because very few babies would survive what he went through and the name has stuck. He is our miracle baby.”
Freddie was born on August 22 weighing 6lb 4oz and has just been christened,
On Monday December 3, students from Haslingden High School will be taking part in a Class 2 Grass running challenge and raising money for the Fetal Medicine Unit.
So far more than £650 has been raised. A JustGiving page has been set up https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/FreddiesStory
Mr Samulewski added: “We owe the FMU team everything, without them there is no doubt that Freddie wouldn’t be here with us now. We will be forever grateful.”