‘Miracle baby’ still defies odds

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Taking to the slopes: The Finlay family, of Brisbane, from left, Katrina, Charlie, Phoebe and Ian PICTURE: BLAIR PATTINSON

Decked out with a pink helmet and red ski jacket, 9-year-old Phoebe Finlay looks like any other child learning to ski at Coronet Peak.

But she’s negotiating the slopes primarily using hearing and her “special eyes”.

Queenstown’s “miracle baby”, who now lives in Australia, continues to defy the odds.

Phoebe was born in Dunedin Hospital in 2008 at 25 weeks, weighing just 670 grams – that’s only slightly more than a block of butter.

Mum Katrina had developed preaclampsia, a disease of the placenta which can be fatal to expectant mothers.

Clinging to life: Phoebe in hospital in 2008

Phoebe was rushed to Christchurch Women’s Hospital where the tiny tot endured five major operations to her heart, stomach and bowel, along with 75 blood transfusions all before her due date.

She spent three months on life support.

Her parents lost count of the number of times they were told to say their goodbyes.

Phoebe spent 130 days in hospital and her parents were told she would be unlikely to walk or see.

For the first two years, Phoebe was largely in “quarantine” at home.

She’s spent the last seven making up for it.

Real battler: Phoebe Finlay, 9, right, tackles Coronet Peak’s learner slopes on Monday with little brother Charlie PICTURE: BLAIR PATTINSON

Phoebe has close-range peripheral vision.

She’s got about 30cm of blurred vision in her right eye and none in her left, thought to have been caused by the extended period of time she spent on a ventilator.

But it doesn’t hold her back.

The proud Kiwi attends a mainstream girls’ school in Brisbane, is learning Chinese and loves creating art.

During a visit to Queenstown this week she conquered Coronet Peak and is almost ready to start using poles.

Her parents put it all down to Phoebe’s zest for life and competitive spirit.

“She was so sick, so little and had so many operations but … it’s in her,” Ian says.

“You can only put her out there, she’s doing it all.

“We give her the chance of doing everything she can but never, ever forget what she went through.

“Our wish, right back [at the beginning], we just wanted her to have a great life – and that’s what she’s having.”

Phoebe runs cross-country, is an avid swimmer and singer (Adele’s Hello is her favourite right now) and loves blatting around on a quad bike with her little brother and “best mate”, Charlie, 6.

The family has travelled to the United States a couple of times, Hong Kong and Singapore, and visits Queenstown twice a year.

The happy-go-lucky little lady, who’ll turn 10 in January, wants to spend as much of that life as she can on skis.

When asked what she thinks she might like to be when she grows up, there’s no hesitation: “A ski teacher”.

ed@scene.co.nz