Mum who had to stay in Spain after baby arrived early praises teacher for helping family through ‘nightmare’

Mum Susan Maguire and teacher Jennifer Hutton with her award

Seoirse Mulgrew

A mother who had to spend two weeks in a Spanish ICU after her baby was born prematurely has praised her son’s teacher for helping the family get through the nightmare scenario.

Susan Maguire was on holiday in Lanzarote with her husband Brian and their now seven-year-old son Christopher in November 2021 when she gave birth to Dáire at 28 weeks.

There was no ICU in Lanzarote, so the Carlow family were transferred to a hospital on neighbouring Gran Canaria.

“It was horrendous. The shock takes over and I don’t know where it comes from, but you get this instinct,” Ms Maguire said.

The mother of two said she was in disbelief when she realised she was in labour, which she was grateful did not happen on the flight home.

“They airlifted us the night I had Dáire to Gran Canaria. I had him the night before we were due to come home,” she said. “You don’t get a minute to think about it until it’s done and dusted.

“We were very fortunate to have insurance, and while he was very premature, he was very well.

“The only thing that was wrong with him at the time was he had a little hiccup with his heart.

“We encountered a lot of babies who were a lot further along who were a lot sicker.”

Ms Maguire and her husband soon decided that it would be in Christopher’s best interest to go home, and family relatives flew over to collect him so he could return to school.

“It took one day in ICU to realise it wasn’t a place for Christopher to be. We realised he had to go home,” said Ms Maguire.

“He had his brother that he had never met and who he loved already. We could only show him pictures,” she said.

“I didn’t know when I was going to get back home or when I was going to see him. The guilt was terrible.”

Ms Maguire said the family were told to prepare to spend Christmas abroad, but the process was made easier by their son’s teacher, Jennifer Hutton, who assured Ms Maguire she would look after Christopher as if he was her own.

Dáire was in ICU for two weeks and was then brought home to Ireland by air ambulance. He spent five more weeks in hospital after the family arrived home.

Ms Maguire said Dáire, who is now 18 months, is “perfect”.

“He’s great. It’s a really happy ever after story,” she said.

She nominated Ms Hutton, from St Fiacc’s National School, Co Carlow, for the Teachers Inspire Ireland Desmond Award for the compassion she showed Christopher.

“Jenny was brilliant, I never had to worry about him. She’s just fantastic – the kids love her and Christopher just absolutely adores her,” Ms Maguire said.

“She was so kind to him, and she treats all the children like that. It’s a big deal to us. She’s getting this award for not just how she treated my baby but for who she is as a person.

“Christopher still loves her and she’s not even his teacher any more. I’m delighted for the school to get this recognition.”

Ms Hutton said she was very grateful to receive the award at the ceremony at Dublin City University yesterday.

“I’m really fortunate to work in my own school that I attended, and well-being is at the centre of everything we do here,” she said.

“The fact that Susan, Brian, Christopher and Dáire nominated me was really nice and I was very grateful for them sharing their story, but that just goes to show what kind of family they are.

“During the toughest time in their life, their concern was school. Susan was in contact with me from the ICU in the Canaries and they kept us informed every step of the way.

“That really helped us to support Christopher in school.”

Ms Hutton also acknowledged her own “inspirational teacher”, local woman Aisling Nolan, who died in March after a short illness.

“She was my junior infants teacher and the reason I became a teacher. My principal described her recently as the heartbeat of our school and it’s so fitting because she cared so much,” she said.