SIX months ago Steve Hale was sitting in a hospital ward fearing for the life of his critically-ill newborn son, Austin.
The tiny baby was barely a day old when he was rushed from Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham to Southampton in need of an emergency operation to fix his weakened heart.
The tot endured a total of 20 hours in theatre over just two days before spending the next couple of weeks in the hospital’s specialised paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
Austin is now on the mend but will need many operations through his childhood to make sure his heart doesn’t fail again.
Delighted dad Steve, of Hilsea, said he now wants to show his gratitude to the intensive care team that saved his son’s life – by abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower.
The 40-year-old said: ‘It if wasn’t for the PICU’s efforts Austin would have died. We were told that if he had come home he would not have made it. Nothing has been too much for them. We owe them everything – they kept our son alive.’
Austin was born on July 7 and had his first open-heart operation 20 hours later.
Reflecting on the ordeal, Steve said: ‘About 12 hours after Austin was born there was a midwife change and he wasn’t breathing correctly. His heart stopped. He was rushed to Southampton hospital by a PICU ambulance.
‘They stabilised him to get him through the night but it was very scary. The next morning they operated on him but his heart was more damaged than they thought. He was in theatre for about 13 or 14 hours on the first day.’
Steve, of Amberley Road, will be taking on 100-metre descent on July 2 – coincidentally just days before Austin’s first birthday.
He won’t be taking on the challenge alone. He is being accompanied by five of his friends, Courtney Channon, of Marchwood, Michael Buckley, of Havant, Paul Lang, of Hedge End, John West and Dave Bachelor, both of Portsmouth. They aim to raise £750 from their abseiling adventure.
Steve said: ‘I was really excited by the abseil at first but now as it gets closer I’m getting more and more nervous.’
n PICU helps about 1,000 patients a year. Its 14-bed unit cares for children from birth to 18. To donate, see mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/austinhale17