The family of a premature baby treated at Cardiff Children’s Hospital 30 years ago has raised £225,000 towards the new unit built in its place.
When Robert Cooper was born three months early in 1987, he was given 24 hours to live.
Born in Aberystwyth weighing just 1lb 11oz, baby Robert was transferred to Cardiff Children’s Hospital where his mum, Helen, was told to prepare for the worst.
Against all the odds, he thrived and was soon allowed home to Llanidloes.
“His life began in an incubator,” said Helen. “He just fought all the way through and carried on making progress.
“It was a tough time, with all that worry, but once he came off the life support machine it was plain sailing all the way. He was a little fighter.”
To his mum’s delight, Robert had no lasting health problems and grew into an active and ambitious young man, joining the army at 16.
Now a Corporal, he helps train new recruits and is involved in charity work for the children of fallen soldiers.
He travels the world playing rugby for the army and was part of a world record-breaking 30-hour rugby match.
He has certainly grabbed the chance at life he was given by the staff at Cardiff Hospital all those years ago – something his family wanted to show their appreciation for.
Helen said: “There was talk about building this new hospital – the Noah’s Ark Hospital – and my dad and his wife got the idea to support the charity.
“My dad is totally dedicated. His late wife, Jean, sadly passed away before the hospital was completed, so he has thrown himself into fundraising
“He does stalls through the summer, and in supermarkets. We do sponsored walks, and he organises concerts with local schoolchildren. He never stops. People leave donations at his house and every other Sunday he takes them down to the charity shop in the hospital.”
Helen’s dad, Les Jones, now 86, was rewarded for his efforts with an MBE in 2012.
As well as the fundraising by Robert’s family, others from Llanidloes have also supported the charity, which has helped several other children from the town in recent years.
“There are a few children from Llani who have been treated at that hospital so it is very close to the community’s hearts,” said Helen.
“The government pays for the building but all the equipment has to be fundraised for.
“There is a lot of equipment that has been donated from Llani, and there are plaques on all of it saying ‘from the people of Llanidloes’. It is really lovely to see where all the money goes.”
The new state-of the art facilities mean that more children will get the best possible treatment and more parents, like Helen, will get to see their child grow up.
“He is now this six foot, big lump of muscle,” she added.
“He has come a long way when you look back to when he was born. He has achieved a lot, and I am extremely proud of him.”