Northern Ireland news

Baby Camille defying odds six months after dramatic life-saving heart op during first lockdown

Camille Murray is now
Seanín Graham

A "warrior" baby who underwent life-saving heart surgery during the first lockdown has made a remarkable recovery - with soaring energy levels six months on.

Camille Murray made headlines during April's all-island Covid shutdown when the major operation in Dublin was cancelled twice and her family were forced to live apart to protect her from contracting coronavirus.

A photograph on social media of the four-month-old being held by her father, Antrim GAA star Conor Murray, minutes before she was due to go to theatre in Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin went viral.

The Lisburn baby was described as a warrior, defying the odds in the pandemic.

Camille was born last December with a congenital heart condition and became unwell in March when she stopped gaining weight, leading her to be admitted to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

She also has Down's Syndrome.

Arrangements were made between consultants in Belfast and Dublin - since 2015 the north has had no surgical service for babies and children with serious heart defects - and an operation to rebuild the chambers of her heart was arranged for early April in Crumlin, but was cancelled due to limited ICU beds.

A second date for Easter Tuesday became available but was also put back.

Following the six-hour operation later that month - surgeons hailed it a "brilliant success" - Camille was transferred to intensive care for two days.

Father Conor Murray with his son Camille after life saving heart surgery in Dublin last friday.

Mr Murray, a special needs school teacher, was forced to live apart from his wife Laura and their three young children, Roma (9), Jude (5) and Thea (2), in the weeks before the surgery, with the couple undergoing repeated tests for coronavirus.

Speaking to The Irish News yesterday, the Lámh Dhearg clubman said Camille has been "symptom free" since her discharge home and is reaching all her milestones, "feeding, crawling and yakking away".

A six-month assessment is due to be carried out by medics.

"We had a big scan May/June time and everything looked good. We haven't heard anything since then from the hospital. The consultant in the Royal told us that if there’s no symptoms, we are not to stress and treat her like a normal child," Mr Murray said.

"With Camille, you wouldn’t even know what she’s been through. The scarring on her chest is almost away. She's putting on weight, eating solid food, sitting up and yaks away.

"She's cheeky enough and if she doesn’t get her bottle in time, she lets you know she wants it.

"When your child has Down's, you worry about their speech and eye contact, but she is very good.

"We had to do a couple of things during lockdown over Zoom with occupational therapists and physio, they gave us different exercises. But there's been nothing, we just treat her the way we treat the other three."

Mr Murray admitted there was huge anxiety when they first got their youngest daughter home.

However, their goal of getting to Donegal in August for their first family holiday was achieved.

"As soon as we went home we didn't leave the house and our shopping was delivered. It was probably after we had the scan, when the swelling had gone down and the stitches were removed, we realised she had got through it, we'd got her over the line," he said.

"Before Camille had the surgery, when she took any type of bottle she was just falling asleep. Whereas now, she’s not going to bed until she's completely exhausted.

"The big thing we've noticed is the energy she has. She’s starting to crawl and trying to get to her feet. Our consultant told us that she’ll start getting stronger and stronger as she gets bigger and the heart grows. We couldn’t be happier."

With the north entering further lockdown restrictions as coronavirus cases spiral, Mr Murray said they are sticking to guidelines.

"With me now back teaching, and two of our kids in school we're mindful but we just try to keep to the simple stuff. The uniforms are off and straight into the waching machine along with all the hand washing. Luckily there's been no cases in our school," he said.

"We watch out for warning symptoms, such as drowsiness, weight loss and temperature. But Camille has been the opposite if anything."

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