Collapsed in a heap on the cold hospital floor, Joe Darcy sobbed over the loss of his newborn daughter.
With his wife Hiam still sedated after an emergency C-section, Joe was distraught – wondering how he would tell her their baby didn’t make it.
Fifteen minutes later, a nurse propelled herself through the operating theatre door towards the despairing Joe in the the waiting room.
Their baby girl had just taken her first breath, the nurse excitedly told him.
“She ran (out) and said, ‘No, she is okay’,” Joe tells 7Life of the emotion-charged moment that he learnt his daughter was alive after all.
From the moment she was born, Eve was a fighter.
At 36 weeks pregnant, Hiam phoned Joe one day while he was at work.
“She told me the baby wasn’t moving around but she was booked in for a scan tomorrow,” Joe recalls.
“I just told her we should go for a scan now – we shouldn’t wait – and I met her there.”
Joe remembers the appointment being “calm”.
The pair was excited to bring baby number two into the world, a brother or sister for their then-13-year-old son.
They weren’t seeking to know the child’s gender – they wanted to have a traditional surprise.
Towards the end of the scan, the technician informed the couple their baby’s heart rate was slowing.
She advised them to go to the hospital immediately – Hiam would need an emergency C-section.
As Hiam was prepped for surgery, Joe was escorted to a waiting room where a nurse stayed by his side.
“She told me not to worry, the baby would be here in about 10 minutes,” he says.
As Joe sat and watched the clock, 10, 15 and 20 minutes ticked by with no word from the operating theatre.
Then, a solemn-looking nurse walked into the waiting room.
“She looked at me and just said, ‘Sorry, we lost her’,” Joe tells of the harrowing moment.
“I collapsed. I just hit the deck in tears.
“I thought she was talking about my wife – I didn’t know we had a baby girl.”
Joe’s mind raced as he tried to take in the thought that he would now have to face life without his soul mate.
But quickly and gently, the nurse told him Hiam was alive – it was his baby daughter who didn’t survive.
The father then attempted to direct his thoughts to his baby girl, Eve – and the grave news that he would need to tell his wife once she woke.
Fifteen minutes later, as he was trying to make sense of the still-unfolding conundrum, the nurse ran back in.
“She just said, ‘She is okay!’,” Joe recalls.
The nurse reassured him that both his wife and baby were alive, but said Eve was very ill.
After Hiam came around from her anaesthesia, the pair waited anxiously to meet their daughter, who had been taken away for tests.
Six hours later, tiny Eve – snaked in wires and tubes – was reunited with her parents.
“She was in this box with all these wires,” Joe says.
“All we knew was that she was very, very sick.”
In utero, Eve had not received enough blood flow from mum.
She was born with just 30mls of blood circulating around her body and, within seconds of birth, went into heart failure.
Miraculously – 15 minutes after being pronounced dead – she took a breath.
But for those 15 minutes, her brain had been deprived of oxygen, leaving permanent damage.
Hiam and Joe were told they needed to make an agonising decision – not if but when to turn off the life support.
If, by a miracle, Eve did survive after being removed from the machines, she was likely to spend her life in a wheelchair.
Consumed with emotion, the parents reluctantly gave their authority to withdraw the mechanical support.
They began making arrangements for her funeral, and Joe’s parents flew from Ireland to say goodbye.
After settling on a date, a photographer was booked, to capture the family’s last moments together.
With everything in place, Joe had one wish before Eve would take her final breath – to hold his little girl on his birthday.
“I did skin to skin on my birthday,” Joe smiles. “It was so special.”
When the time came to say goodbye, the Darcys were taken to a private room in the hospital.
They were told Eve would have about one hour before her lungs failed.
“We were told she would just slip away,” Joe says.
Medical staff unravelled the wires from her tiny body and handed her to Hiam and Joe, leaving the family to be alone.
The photographer quietly stood in the background capturing the final moments.
“We were just bawling the entire time,” Joe says.
“It was nice though, at the time. I was thinking it was nice that my wife had that time to hold her and meet her.”
With the life support off, Eve’s chest kept moving up and down – and, two hours later, she continued to fight.
Breathing on her own
With the baby defying the odds and still breathing, a doctor asked her parents if he could run one further test.
He placed a gloved finger gently inside the newborn’s mouth – and the baby started sucking it.
“The doctor was in shock. Everyone rushed in and it was all hands on deck,” Joe says.
“She was breathing on her own – it was just a weird, exciting and crazy day.”
More tests followed – and this time each one had a positive outcome.
“It was, ‘She can hear, she can see, she can do everything’,” Joe recalls.
“And then we were told we can go home next week.”
The Darcys were in shock.
Surrounded by family who had flown in for a funeral there was instead a celebration of Eve’s life.
“My mum turned to me and asked why we picked the name Eve,” Joe remembers a conversation with his late mum.
“I just said, ‘I don’t know, we have had it picked out forever’.
“She said, ‘Do you know Eve means life in Hebrew?’.”
While the extent of Eve’s brain damage would most likely not be known until she was around a year old, right now the baby was given the all clear.
The family was also briefed on the likelihood of Eve having cerebral palsy, a congenital disorder that impacts muscle control, tone and coordination.
Once settled at home, Hiam began researching and found promising studies highlighting the benefits of early intervention.
In Australia, however, Hiam learnt that Eve couldn’t be formally diagnosed until she was one.
Armed with this information, the mum found an Aussie specialist who worked in a US clinic – and who was able to confirm cerebral palsy, via video, when Eve was just 10 weeks old.
Two weeks later, Hiam and Joe began a multitude of therapies with their baby, including water-based physical movements, music and massage.
During Eve’s first year of life, Hiam went back to work and Joe became the primary caregiver.
The Cerebral Palsy Alliance helped cover the costs of Eve’s therapy and provided support for the family.
Eve is now eight and has developed only mild cerebral palsy, which mainly impacts her legs – an outcome that Joe and Hiam credit to the early intervention.
But she isn’t defined by her diagnosis – in fact, she is a regular outgoing kid.
With karate, tennis, skateboarding and ice skating some of her favourite activities, Eve loves testing her physical abilities.
“She calls her legs her ‘tricky legs’,” Joe says as he describes his daughter’s moderate balance difficulties.
Despite this, Eve is always up for a challenge and even skied down the snow slopes with her dad last snow season.
Still attending multiple therapies, Joe looks at scared new parents visiting Cerebral Palsy Alliance clutching their babies.
“It’s the fear in their eyes. If there was one thing I could tell them, it’s that they have a miracle baby,” Joe explains.
“You don’t need to fear for the future.”