Mum thought she was high on gas & air after her baby was born with six fingers on each hand
A MUM whose son was born with six fingers on each hand has relived how she thought she was dreaming when nurses told her about it.
Little Taylor McCleave, from Belfast, was also born with a hole in his heart and one heart valve instead of two – meaning he needed open heart surgery at just four days old to save his life.
Now aged three-and-a-half, Taylor is a thriving, happy boy who loves colourful toys and playing with his big brother Lucas Ross, five.
His mum Sharon Ross says his survival was nothing short of a miracle – and she’s determined to help him fit in and make friends.
Taylor has global developmental delay and autism, and is tiny for his age. He still wears 18-month sized clothes.
Sharon says she gets sick of people staring at her son or making comments, which is why she opted for surgery on his hands two years ago.
Taylor was born with a condition called polydactyly, meaning he had an extra little finger on each hand.
Sharon says: “He was born by planned C-section and the first thing the nurses told me was that he had six fingers on each hand. I thought I must be on some really good gas and air!
“They passed him to me for literally a second before they whisked him away. I thought I’d dreamed it.
“I always thought he was perfect – just the way he was – but I decided to have his two extra fingers removed while he was still young because I didn’t want him to be picked on when he’s older.”
Sharon’s pregnancy with Taylor hadn’t been easy. After suffering with extreme morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum), her 20-week scan showed that her baby had a hole in his heart.
“That’s when my world just crumbled,” she says. “The doctors explained he might not survive and that his first 48 hours would be critical.
“He would have to be flown to London for open heart surgery. It was a lot to take in.”
Sharon was on tenterhooks as Taylor was born by C-section at 38 weeks at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, with a full medical team waiting for him.
She only got a glimpse of him before he was rushed to neonatal intensive care.
Within 12 hours his health had deteriorated further.
“There were about 15 to 20 doctors round his incubator,” says Sharon.
“They said he was too ill to be flow to London so they were going to transfer him to Dublin’s Our Lady Children’s Hospital instead.”
In Dublin Sharon was allowed to carry her newborn baby down to theatre and stay with him until he was asleep.
“The next five-and-a-half hours were agony,” she says. “They rang me every hour with an update, and every time the phone went I thought it was the call to say he’d died.
“When they opened him up they realised he only had one heart valve, so they made him a second one by taking a vein out of his left arm. It’s incredible if you think about it.
“When I was finally allowed to see him in recovery he was covered in wires from head to toe.”
At eight weeks old Taylor underwent further open heart surgery to drain a build-up of fluid on his heart.
After a long recovery, Sharon was so thankful to finally take her baby home that at first she didn’t realise he was missing his milestones.
“He was tiny and he wasn’t doing the things that my first son, Lucas, had done,” she says. “I thought it was just because of everything he’d been through, but eventually he was diagnosed with global developmental delay.”
Single mum Sharon thought her son was “perfect and gorgeous” just the way he was. But she found the reactions of other people hard to take.
What is global development delay?
The term global development delay is used when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children their age.
This could include learning to walk or talk, movement skills.
It can also include learning new things and interacting with others socially and emotionally.
Charity MENCAP states: "Someone with another condition, like Down’s syndrome or Cerebral palsy, may also have Global developmental delay.
"For some people, the delay in their development will be short term and can be overcome with additional support or therapy.
"In other cases the delay may be more significant and the child will need ongoing support. This indicates they may also have a learning disability. "
“I’d be sitting at playgroup with him on my knee, while the other kids were playing, because he couldn’t walk or talk,” she says. “I’d see the other mums whispering or staring.
“People were always asking to look at his hands too. People in the streets would stop and make comments about them.
“I just wanted to protect him. I knew he’d grow up different but I didn’t want him to be picked on or stared at.”
That’s why, when Taylor was two, Sharon made the decision to have the littlest finger on each of his hands removed.
“He was so young, I thought he’d never really even remember them,” she explains. “It seemed like the kindest thing to do.”
Tyler also started going to a special nursery for children with learning disabilities run by MENCAP in Belfast, and learned to take his first steps in a walking frame.
In winter 2020, Sharon was trying to think of ways to support her son, when her eyes fell on the cupboard under her stairs.
“It was just used for storage and full of rubbish,” she says. “I started wondering if I could make it into a den for Taylor instead. His learning disabilities mean he’s very sensory and loves flickering lights.
“I think it comes from staring at all the machines in intensive care when he was a baby too.”
Sharon paid a local builder £350 to transform the cupboard into a “house” for her boys, complete with bricks, windows and a chimney. Inside she put their own TV, as well as twinkling lights and lava lamps.
Now Taylor and Lucas love hanging out in their very own house under the stairs. Taylor is still very small for his age – his mum says he is often mistaken for a toddler instead of a boy of almost four.
“When Taylor laughs he lights up the room,” says Sharon. “I’ll do everything I can to protect him and keep him happy.”
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