Lincoln Stoddard – ‘Linky Loo’ – survived only two short years
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When little Lincoln Stoddard was born prematurely at just 24 weeks old, he was so tiny he could fit in the palm of his mother's hand. Tragically, the happy little baby – known affectionately as 'Linky Loo' – survived only two short years.
He passed away five days after his second birthday. He suffered a multitude of health complications and caught Covid while battling each and every day. Lincoln always had a smile on his face.
When he contracted coronavirus, his parents suspected it was the 'beginning of the end'. He took his final breaths with his heartbroken mum and dad – Shaunie and Jordan – by his side.
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The couple, from Eccles, Salford, have two daughters – Meadow, now six; and Harleigh, now three. They found out they were expecting once again the day after they tied the knot, on February 23, 2020.
"When I had Harleigh I had a placenta abruption and although it could have happened again, it wasn’t a particularly high chance," Shaunie told the Manchester Evening News.
"But it happened with Lincoln and he was born at 24 weeks at Saint Mary’s Hospital. I’d gone into labour and then they did an emergency section. He was only 560g, he was the size of the palm of my hand."
Lincoln then spent 184 days at Saint Mary’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), during which time he had several surgeries for a bowel perforation; laser eye surgery for retinopathy of prematurity, where blood vessels in the eye grow abnormally; and to have a Hickman line fitted so medical teams could more easily administer medication.
His parents were given the devastating news that he had bleeds to the brain and cerebral palsy. After his stay in NICU, Lincoln was allowed home for the first time and was able to enjoy Christmas Day with his parents and big sisters, enjoying the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree.
Jordan said: "He was fine on Christmas Day, but on Boxing Day he went into cardiac arrest and I had to do CPR on him. It was completely out of the blue and just horrible."
Lincoln spent three weeks at Bolton Royal before allowed to return home, but then needed more hospital treatment at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Jordan said: "He spent most of summer 2021 in the children’s hospital on ward 84. He had surgeries because he had severe reflux so they wanted to look in his stomach and they also needed to do a procedure on his undescended testes.
Repeat brain scans revealed Lincoln's brain was not developing properly and he had a degenerative brain disorder.
Jordan added: "Lincoln was always smiling and such a happy baby. He never cried, even when he had needles and operations he just took it in his stride. He wasn’t afraid of hospital, he loved it. During 2021 he was in went back to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital a lot, but the longest stay was that summer."
Lincoln was back in hospital again for Christmas 2021 and then, in the January, was at home when he tested positive for Covid. Shaunie said: "The Covid really knocked him for six. And looking back now, we think that was the beginning of the end for him. It was just too much."
Jordan added: "He was really bad after that. He was having seizures and was also diagnosed with epilepsy.
"With all his medical conditions he spent time on pretty much every ward in the children’s hospital at some point. He was also at Salford Royal and Bolton too and there was a period where it would be a few days at home, then a few days on a hospital ward.
"But eventually it became clear hospital was no longer suitable for him, and so he was sent over to the children’s hospice. He died on Wednesday, July 27."
In the days before he died, Lincoln still kept his smile. Friday, July 22 it was his second birthday. Friends and family celebrated with him at Francis House Children’s Hospice. The following day, he had a family party with balloons, cake and special guests Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy.
"We had lots of colourful balloons and we held Lincoln’s hand as he let one go," Shaunie added. "It was really special to watch his face light up as he watched it float off." Dad Jordan, 25, added: "We never got the chance to take Lincoln on holiday to the beach, so on the Sunday we bought him a sandpit so he could know what it was like to have sand between his toes. He loved the feel of it.
"We also got him a ball pool to play in, as he’d never done that either because the public ball pits were too much of an infection risk. On the Monday we had a Nana and Grandads' day and he got to spend time with our mums and dads. Only my mum had had him for one night, so none of them had ever had him for a sleepover, so it was nice they got some quality time too.
"On Tuesday we withdraw his care and took away his BPAP [a type of ventilation machine used to facilitate breathing] and he was still smiling and looking around the whole time. We sang some songs and told stories about our favourite times with Lincoln. He went to sleep on Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning at 7.55am, he took his last breath.
"No one wants to lose a loved one, especially a child, but that was the best possible way for him to go. I’d wish for any families in that situation to have that experience, because it was just so peaceful."
The family say Lincoln will forever be remembered for his happiness and keeping his memory alive will always be incredibly important to them. Jordan said: "He was always smiling. He was such a happy baby. With everything he went through you’d think he’d get upset or be scared of the hospital but he never was. Even when he woke up from surgeries he’d look around and be smiling again."
Shaunie added: “He was really into In The Night Garden and loved bright colours and lights. I’m so glad we got to create such nice memories with him.” The couple have already donated more than £3,900 to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity and say it’s the first of many years to come of fundraising to thank those who cared for Lincoln before he passed.
Donna O’Reilly, Relationship Manager at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “Continuing Lincoln’s legacy and doing things to help other poorly children is such a beautiful way to remember him. The money for our Charity will be used by Ward 84 for Play Services, including purchasing some sensory toys, which I hear were some of Lincoln’s favourites.
“I know Jordan and Shaunie also have big plans to raise funds for other charities involved in Lincoln’s care and will be doing more for our cause in a few years. I can’t thank them enough for thinking of others at what must be such a difficult time. I want to offer my condolences to everyone who loved and shared precious memories with Lincoln.”
Paying tribute to her son, Shaunie, 23, said: “Lincoln was in Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital so much, that was our home and our actual home was just where we came on vacation. The staff there felt like family and they really spoilt Lincoln. If we popped out for dinner or to the toilet, when we returned Lincoln would be having a cuddle with one of the nurses. They were all his aunties!
"During life he touched the hearts of many people and will continue to do so long into the future, thanks to the family and friends who loved him so much."
Jordan said: "We knew our time with Lincoln was precious, and we treated every day with him like it was our last."
People can leave comments and special memories of Lincoln on his Facebook Page – Lincoln’s Journey.
If you’d like to find out more about support Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity visit www.rmchcharity.org.uk