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Christmas joy as miracle bub Oliver continues to overcome challenges

Published:  21 December 2022

Oliver Hutchen has faced more challenges than most other three-year-olds. The tiny toddler from Home Hill was born without an oesophagus and underwent more surgeries before his first birthday than most will in their lives. 

Townsville Hospital and Health Service named Oliver one of its 12 Miracles of Christmas in 2020 after he overcame a mountain of medical complications and surgeries in his first year of life. 

Oliver was born premature in November 2019 and rushed into his first surgery just hours later after doctors in Townsville University Hospital’s NICU diagnosed him with tracheoesophageal fistula, a rare condition where a baby is born with their food pipe connected to their airway.

Oliver’s mum, Stephanie Hutchen did not know if her little boy would make it to his first Christmas and is looking forward to cherishing new memories with their family as they celebrate this year.

“Oliver was born without an oesophagus which meant anything he ate or drank was going into his airways and then into his stomach,” Mrs Hutchen said.

“His whole first year was pretty much spent here in hospital and he had five surgeries in his first eight months of life. 

“Our journey has had lots of surgeries, tests, check-ups, and appointments but we always see the friendly faces of Oliver’s old nurses whenever we come back to the hospital.”

Miracle bub Oliver today ripped open a gift from Santa and placed an ornament on the tree.

Mrs Hutchen said she was proud of Oliver’s resilience over the past three years.

“He is due for another surgery before Christmas where doctors will put him under anaesthetic and use a camera to see if his oesophagus needs to be widened,” she said.

“He’s still not eating solid foods and we are mostly giving him pureed food as he does not have the nerves and muscles to push the food down.

“He has come so far in just a few years and although we still have a bit further to go, he’s getting more confident every day.”

Brighter Lives chief executive officer Tanya Busoli said the charity was seeking donations from the community to put in care packs for patients like Oliver who would be spending any part the festive season in hospital.

“It’s difficult to spend time in hospital at this time of year, especially for young children and their families,” Ms Busoli said.

“This year we are promoting the gift of giving and encouraging the community to donate items for our care drive to help us spread holiday cheer among patients.

“Donations can include colouring books for adults or children, toothbrushes and toiletries, pencils, toys and more.

“Brighter Lives is committed to doing what we can to make a difference for all patients.”

Townsville Hospital and Health Service chief executive Kieran Keyes said Brighter Lives brought joy to patients every day of the year but this festive initiative was a chance to brighten the day of someone who was in hospital throughout the festive period.

“It is heart-warming to see Oliver overcoming the challenges he has faced in his short life and to open the first gift under our Christmas tree today.

“We are very proud of our partnership with Brighter Lives and the work they do to bring a smile to all our patients and especially some of our young patients like Oliver. 

“This time of year is all about giving and sharing special moments with the people closest to us.

“Something as small as a stuffed animal, stickers or a colouring book can brighten the day of someone who is not able to celebrate in their usual way because they are in hospital.”

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