The US family of Zoe Ireland Drake, the baby girl born prematurely in Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital just minutes after landing in Ireland, is set to remain in Dublin this Christmas.
Jenny and Gavin Drake from Kentucky have remained in Dublin since their daughter’s birth at just 25 weeks in October, staying in accommodation provided by a charity established to look after families with sick children.
The couple had been traveling from Paris to North Carolina when Jenny began to experience contractions an hour into the flight.
“I was a little worried about the time we left the ground; I started timing contractions once we got up in the air. And once we were about an hour into the flight, I knew we were in trouble," Jenny said.
Initially believing that she was suffering from Braxton Hicks and attempting to convince herself that she was not in labor, Jenny eventually brought her contractions to the attention of an air hostess who sought medical attention while the American Airlines flight diverted to Dublin.
"They asked if there were any medics on board and I think eight lights went on. There were several doctors who helped me, so I was really lucky,” she continued.
"Originally they were going to turn the flight around and head back to Paris but, then we were told we were going to Dublin.
"We could see on the screen that's where we were heading.
"I felt for my poor husband – at one point they handed him a bag and said you may have to catch her."
As the plane headed towards Dublin, Jenny was concerned that the flight would not make it in time.
"My big fear was that, if she was born on the plane she wouldn't make it because she was so young and her lungs were not properly developed,” she told the Irish Independent.
"I was just trying to keep her in – which is easier said than done.
"I just kept thinking 'please let me make it to the hospital' because every minute counts without oxygen.
"And we did – four minutes after I got to the hospital, Zoe was born."
Weighing just 1.8 pounds, Zoe Ireland was born four minutes after her mother Jenny arrived in the hospital after being rushed from Dublin Airport.
She has remained in intensive care at the Rotunda Hospital for the past two months and is believed to be thriving.
“She is growing like she’s supposed to. She’s almost four pounds,” her parents confirmed.
Although the couple had previously decided on naming their daughter Elizabeth, they felt she was too eager to visit the Emerald Isle not to include some part of the country in her name, choosing Zoe Ireland instead.
"Yes we had to change it. We originally had planned Elizabeth. That no longer seems fitting. She had to now be Ireland," said Jenny.
The Drakes confirmed they would be remaining in Ireland throughout the festive season and that they would be joined by their three-year-old son Aidan, who had been staying with grandparents, as they honored Martin Curley and Ade Stack, the founders of Hugh’s House, at the Irish People of the Year Awards this week.
Zoe Ireland’s parents have been staying in Hugh’s House since their daughter’s surprise early arrival and hope to return to the US early next year, hopefully by Zoe’s due date.
Hugh’s House was established by parents Marty Curley and Ade Stack following the death of their son Hugh, aged just eight months. Hugh had been ill and in the hospital for all of his short life and his parents witnessed first hand the experience of families who were not as fortunate as they were to live in close proximity to the hospital.
Following his death, they donated a six-bedroom house on Belvedere Place, where families who have sick children attending Temple Street Children’s Hospital and the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin can stay free of charge, many staying for a few months at a time.
Gavin Drake praised the charity for the support they had given the US couple during their unexpected first trip to Ireland.
"It’s been amazing. Not only do we have somewhere to stay in a foreign country, but they have meals prepared for us. It’s brought normalcy to a very abnormal situation," he said.
This year, Curley and Stack were awarded a People of the Year Award for their work in fundraising to establish and maintain Hugh’s House and support Irish families with sick children.
You can find more information on the charity at https://www.gofundme.com/HughsHouse.