Little Xmas star


Eleven-month-old Phoebe Finlay can’t see her mummy and daddy properly but there’s no doubt she can feel their love for her.

Pictured this week in Brisbane with mum Katrina Withers, the “miracle baby” has a rare eye condition after being born 15 weeks premature – but Phoebe’s progress is a huge step from her initially slim chance of survival.

Withers and fiance Ian Finlay, who call Queenstown home, are based in Brisbane while they seek specialist medical treatment for Phoebe’s eyes.

Phoebe has a “rare fold line” in both retinas, which cause her central vision to be blurred – only two other people in New Zealand are believed to have the same condition, says Finlay.

“She has very limited vision. She can’t focus straight away and if you put your hand in front of her, she can only see up or down. It’s unfortunate but she’ll still see you to smile.”

Withers says it’s been a year of “two halves” for the couple and their first child – who wasn’t expected to survive five major operations in the first few weeks of her life.

“The first half, when she was in hospital, was really difficult until we knew we were able to bring her home.

“And the second half has been a complete contrast to that – it’s been so wonderful,” she says.

Withers tries not to think too much about the trau­­­­­­­­­matic hospital experiences.

“Even though we know how lucky we are every single day, it’s not something that you revisit really, only very occasionally.”

This Christmas will be extra-special for Phoebe – now sporting her first two teeth – and her parents.

Finlay: “From being told what we were told, my wish for the surgeons was to just let us take her home – and we did.

“She’s an amazing little girl with incredible spunk. She’s the light of our life.”