Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

Clinton Price won a local artist award for his photograph depicting his wife and child. Photograph - Richard Polden.

Just two days after Christmas, Clinton and Karen Price welcomed their “miracle baby” into the world, but the joy of their first son’s birth quickly became a parent’s worst nightmare and the couple has shared the story of their son, Joey, with the world.

The Kelmscott couple were told they would never have children, so after suffering three miscarriages, they were elated last year to discover Karen was pregnant.

“They said it was highly unlikely, but after some blood tests they said no, you actually are pregnant,” Clinton said.

“From the word go we knew something wasn’t quite right, but every time they did tests, they couldn’t really get a good picture of him, he was quite a little wiggle-worm.

“About four months in we got the news he had a serious heart condition, but again they couldn’t give us definite answers on what was happening, it was a real rollercoaster ride of emotions.

“In the end, we made the decision that we would let Joey decide what would happen,” he said.

Expecting a February birth, Joey surprised his parents-to-be with a late Christmas present – in the form of an early arrival on December 27.

“He was a big boy, they couldn’t believe it but he was born at 3.3kg,” Clinton said.

“They were finally able to run tests on him and the diagnosis was that that he had a large hole in his heart.

“The doctors only gave him an hour to live from when he was born but he just kept fighting, he kept surprising us, he was putting on weight.

“They wanted to give him time, to see if it was possible to do operations, but unfortunately at seven weeks they made a decision that it was incurable, and we made the decision then that we would remove his breathing machines and let him pass.

“The doctors gave him fifteen minutes once they removed the breathing machines, but he still defied the odds,” Clinton said.

The infant Joey, who had spent his entirety of his life in intensive care, fought on to live for another eight days.

“They gave him fifteen minutes and he gave us a week, and for that time we were able to be a family, he was our little miracle baby.

“We were given a room and we were able to put him in a little cot and have him overnight and make those memories with him.

“I was always in awe of my wife. The moment she got out of the hospital she was by his side every day.

“She doesn’t drive so when I went back to work, she was catching the bus and train and spending twelve hours a day there, every day she was by his side.

“I always had my cameras with me and one day I was sitting on the bed and I turned around to look at my wife holding Joey.

“It was just the way the light was coming through the window, I had to capture that moment,” Clinton said.

The photograph, entitled Saying Goodbye, has now become memorialised in the City of Armadale’s art collection, having won a local artist award at the Minnawarra Art Awards.

“The bond between mother and child in that image shows you the bravery my wife showed the whole time, she was an incredible mother,” Clinton said.

“To me it speaks of everything, the whole experience, we had highs and were smiling and happy and grateful, but at the same time inside we were breaking.

“Sometimes when we look at it, we laugh, because it shows his little chubby arms, we used to always call him a little Michelin baby, you know, he had those baby rolls,” Clinton said.

Less than 24 hours after the photo was taken, Joey would breathe his last breath in the arms of his father.

“He passed away on the ward, we were doing skin-to-skin contact and I was holding him, it was very peaceful,” Clinton said.

“The nurses became family to us, it was very powerful, I don’t think we would have gotten through without the nurses.

“And the doctors as well, they made sure we knew what we were up against, but we just kept saying it was Joey’s journey and he would decide, and he passed the way he wanted to pass.”

Having suffered the immeasurable tragedy of losing their firstborn, Clinton and Karen are keeping Joey’s memory alive.

“We wouldn’t change it, we’re so proud of the decisions we made, it was only a short time, but it was a very special time.

“On Mother’s Day we’re going to head down to Albany for the weekend. We have little Joey’s ashes – whenever we go on an adventure we take his ashes with us.

“My wife wants to see the lighthouse, so we’ll leave that for Sunday, we’ll sit down with our little boy and remember him.

“We’re just going to take it as it goes.”