Maddie (Donaghy) Francis
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Herald Sun Article

Published January 2020

Mum gives back to families with sick babies,

staff at Mercy Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


Susie O’Brien, Herald Sun

January 2, 2019 6:14pm

Ashton Francis is now a happy two-year-old, but he had a rocky start in life. His mother Maddie went in for a scan after she couldn’t feel him moving in the womb and he was born at 30 weeks weighing a life-threatening 1.5kg. He then had to spend six weeks in the Mercy Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit while his mother and father Aaron juggled the care of his sister, Lily, then aged one.



“It was the hardest time ever, but we knew he had wonderful care as he overcame breathing, heart and a bleed on the brain,” Mrs Francis said. She’s never forgotten the care of the staff, particularly head paediatrician Dr Gillian Opie, and so for the past two years has lovingly prepared gift bags for the 61 cots in the NICU.

She put a call-out on Facebook and this year raised $1400 from family and friends. “I can’t think of anything worse than being stuck in the NICU over the holiday season,” she said. “So, I wanted to find a way to make things easier for everyone going through this.”  Mrs Francis has also made up two giant hampers for the staff. “They are working through the festive period, away from their families,” she said. “It’s nice to thank them too.”


The gift bags include many essentials such as hand cream, paw paw cream, tissues and wet wipes, along with little luxuries such as bonbons, snacks, a Christmas ornament and chocolate. Mrs Francis, 37, a Watsonia North stay-at-home mum with a legal background, said Ashton was battling a number of health issues including extreme fatigue. “We’re still at the hospital weekly, and we’ve gone there 60 to 70 times this year alone,” she said.


“Despite this, he’s the happiest kid.”



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