Lucas, the Lionheart, a Christmas ‘miracle’
FIVE-MONTH-OLD Lucas Hobbs has spent most of his life in hospital, at times teetering between life and death, but in what his Dad says is a miracle, he'll be home in Gympie for Christmas.
Lucas, who has a healthy identical twin, Matthew, and older siblings Charlotte, 10, and Zackary, 8, was born a month prematurely at the Mater Mothers' Hospital in Brisbane with a complex heart condition, identified while he was still in the womb.
Parents Jay and Sandi Hobbs were allowed to take him home to Gympie for a fortnight following his birth, but he had to be driven back to Brisbane in an ambulance when he started having "blue spells" - the oxygen levels in his blood were so low he started turning blue.
Lucas weighed just 2.6kg when he had cardiac surgery at the Queensland Children's Hospital to insert a shunt, allowing blood to flow more easily into his lungs - a temporary fix until he's old enough to have a more permanent repair of his heart.
Although the operation went well, it was only the start of the tiny twin's fight for life.
Within days, Lucas developed a serious gut problem, resulting in three more surgeries to remove a large part of his bowel, which had died.
When he was diagnosed with necrotising fasciitis, a severe infection caused by flesh-eating bacteria, his parents were taken into a room full of doctors and told the outlook for him was "very grim".
"That's when he took a scary turn," Mr Hobbs said. "That was definitely life or death. I remember gathering our family together, gathering the other kids. They came in and we basically had to let them know that we might be saying goodbye.
"In what should have been really heart breakingly tragic, it was actually quite beautiful to see them love their brother, sing him songs and read him all their favourite stories."
As doctors worked to save his life, Lucas's story went viral on Facebook, triggering prayers for him from "thousands of people" across the world.
"We are faith-driven people," Mr Hobbs said. "We have faith that we can turn to when there is nothing else we can do. We believe in God and we believe in the power of prayer."
They also had Matthew to hug when they were unable to hold Lucas for weeks at a time.
"Lucas had so many machines keeping him alive, there were so many drugs going into his little body to keep him functioning. We could barely function, let alone pick him up. We thought: 'We can love Matthew and hug Matthew through this while we are hoping for the best for Lucas."
The baby who became known as "Lucas the Lionheart" required 17 operations to remove tissue, including muscle, which had died as a result of the infection.
In all, he's had 25 general anaesthetics - more than most elderly Australians - but tomorrow, he's finally going home to Gympie.
"It's a miracle, it really is," Mr Hobbs said. "I don't like to throw around that word but to be honest, with everything he's gone through, everything he's survived, the amount of surgeries, even the doctors have said that. He had the odds stacked against him so high. The best Christmas gift for sure is Lucas coming home."
Mrs Hobbs tears up when she talks about finally taking the twins home after spending almost half the year away from home.
"We just can't wait to be a family again," she said.
The family has clocked 15,000km travelling to and from Gympie and Brisbane twice a week while Lucas has been in hospital.
"What we've gone through has been definitely the worse experience of our life, no doubt," Mr Hobbs said. "The most stressful, the most taxing, the most emotionally draining, exhausting, financially draining, relationship draining. We're drained on every single level. But we have a beautifully little boy who's healthy and he's thriving. You wouldn't change that for anything."
The Hobbs's said Queensland Children's Hospital staff had become like family during their time in Brisbane.
"They see you at your very worst and they're there through the very hardest of times," Mr Hobbs said. "There's been many, many times when it's been our darkest, darkest days and to know that you have a kind nurse that can just lift your spirits a little bit, it changes things. We can't thank them enough. And obviously, the surgeons and doctors have been incredible. They saved our little boy."
QCH director of paediatric medicine David Levitt, one of Lucas's doctors, said he would need more treatment, including further surgery for his heart condition, known as tetralogy of fallot.
"He's doing brilliantly well at the moment," Dr Levitt said. "He was a very sick boy for a long period of time. It's taken a massive amount of medical intervention, particularly through the surgeons, to get him to this point. They've done an incredible job. It's always exciting for us to get a person with Lucas's medical issues home at this time of year.
"We're very confident that he's going to have a good Christmas at home with his family."
•To donate to children's medical research: childrens.org.au