CALLUM Smith is surrounded by love.
He has two doting parents who shower him with kisses, cuddles and constant care.
But 21-month-old Callum’s story is different to other babies. He suffers from a catalogue of health conditions which are so severe, doctors feared at one point he may not survive.
Now, in a joint campaign with the Hartlepool charity Epilepsy Outlook, we want to raise the £5,000 needed to give him a sensory room.
On this page, you can find out more on how to do just that.
In his short life, Callum has been in hospital almost as often as at home.
He’s only just returned to the family residence in Laird Road, Hartlepool, after 12 weeks of intensive care when his lung collapsed. At one point, say his family, doctors advised them to have him Christened in case his days were numbered.
He now needs round-the-clock care from his parents - Hartlepool couple Zoe Neesam, 21, and Luke Smith, 23 who are registered as his carers.
And their one hope for their son is for him to have the sensory room where “he can smile. That’s all we want,” said Zoe.
The couple first met six years ago as starry-eyed youngsters. For Zoe, then 15, and Luke 17, young love blossomed after that first meeting in Rossmere Park.
Then, in 2011, came the news the couple had dreamt of. They were expecting their first child and their life seemed complete.
Their son Callum was born on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, at the University Hospital of North Tees. He weighed 6lbs 10ozs and entered the world two weeks ahead of schedule.
Zoe, now 21, who had an uncomplicated two-hour labour, recalled: “I noticed that he never cried. I just thought he was a good baby, that he was just being a newborn.”
But the young couple’s worst nightmare came true 13 days later.
Their once silent baby was giving out a “high-pitched scream and he was going really red. The sweat was dripping off him,” said his mum.
He was rushed back to North Tees where he started having seizures and stopped breathing. Experts put him in an incubator during a three-week fight for life, first at North Tees and then at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
Eventually, Callum was allowed home after a series of tests - but doctors were still mystified at the underlying reason for his serious illness, said Zoe, a former British Heart Foundation volunteer.
In March this year, Callum became seriously ill and had to fight for life again.
He suffered a collapsed lung and faced a 12-week stay in hospital at North Tees, said mum. His condition was so poor, the couple held a Christening service at Callum’s hospital bed.
Doctors had some sobering news for the couple. Zoe said: “We were told Callum may have weeks, or years, but he might just have days or he might just go all of a sudden.”
Days later, though, their battling little son showed his grit when he smiled and even giggled during time spent with his dad Luke.
Zoe said: “That’s not the act of someone who only has days left. Callum has been strong for us and now it is our turn to be strong for him.”
The doting mum and dad spend every waking minute caring for Callum.
Zoe added: “When we are in hospital, the nurses ask us what they can do for us and would we like a break. But we want to do everything for our little boy, and we want everything to seem like home for him.”
They have one wish for the son they call “our brave little fighter.” They would love a sensory room filled with the light displays, sounds, projectors and fibre optics to help Callum smile.
Zoe said: “This is our life. This is our normal and, yes it was really hard at first, but our little boy is amazing. He is our little hero and he keeps us sane.”
The couple live in a smart but compact house. Their sitting room is cram-packed with Callum’s toys, oxygen tanks, a ventilation mask, a suction pump, and the tiniest sensory aid.
But upstairs, awaits an empty room which could be converted into the perfect place for Callum. All it needs is the funds to equip it.
“If he could have his own room, his own space, his own place to smile, that is all we want,” said mum.
Today, we launch our appeal called Callum’s Dream to raise the £5,000 needed to make a little boy’s wishes come true. Please help.
WE want people to raise money for baby Callum – but we also want to give you the publicity you deserve for your fundraising efforts.
So if you decide to donate to this great cause, give us a call and we’ll highlight what lengths you went to to raise cash for Callum’s plight.
It might be something as simple as a sponsored run or bike ride or possibly something a little more wacky.
Whatever your event, let us know.
Get in touch with Mail head of features Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377, or send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can give donations to the Epilepsy Outlook charity shops at 199 York Road, and 104 Oxford Road, both in Hartlepool.
Or they can pay it straight into the Lloyds TSB branch in York Road.
The bank details are:-
Account Name - Epilepsy Outlook Project.
Sort Code - 30-99-47.
Account number - 24594260.