New Zealand dad plans to help Vietnam hospital after son survives fall

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Julie Ferne, 68, holds her newborn grandson in Ho Chi Minh City in late August before dying in a fall that killed her and left the four-day-old baby severely injured

After their four-day-old son survived brain injuries from a fall in Ho Chi Minh City, a Vietnamese-New Zealand couple are looking to support a city hospital in memory of the child's New Zealand grandmother who died holding him.

Nguyen Chau, 24, the mother, told the media on September 29 "Our baby has recovered and has been behaving normally like other children. It is really beyond our expectations."

The baby Carter was rushed to the Ho Chi Minh City Children's Hospital No.2 on August 24 with seizures and bleeding in his brain after his grandmother Julie Ferne, 68, who was visiting, toppled over a railing in a stairwell, falling nearly seven meters on to a marble floor below, while holding him.

She was dead by the time she was taken to hospital.

The baby remained in the emergency ward for several days before being transferred to intensive care unit, and the family was repeatedly told it may not survive.

But on the day they sent Ferne's body back to New Zealand they heard the first piece of good news from doctors -- the baby had regained consciousness.

"There was no bigger joy than that," Chau said.

Phil Preston, the father, and his brothers, who had been visiting the child during his treatment, meanwhile thought about donating equipment to the hospital.

The hospital was so short of essential equipment that one family had to take shifts to constantly hand-pump a ventilator that was keeping their child alive, Preston said.

"Phil said he will do it for the loss of his mother and the return of his son," Chau said.

The man told the New Zealand Herald that the biggest joy and pain of his life came in such a short time that it was hard to take it all in.

"It's like being on the biggest high of my life, really - a newborn son, a new country and establishing a business over here, and then my mother comes and visits and she's here in time to witness and be part of the birth of my son.

"And then to have it ... become the worst nightmare you could ever imagine, it's something that just takes a long time to comprehend."

The tragedy has been widely reported in the New Zealand media, and the family has set up the Julia Ferne Memorial Trust for charity to raise contributions for new equipment at the Ho Chi Minh City hospital.

A New Zealand Herald report on September 23 said the fund has raised almost US$60,000 and Preston will be finding out what equipment the hospital is in need to arrange delivery.

Stefan Preston, the eldest son, told the newspaper the trust fund was to ensure that "something good comes from this tragedy and in the memory of our mum."

Chau said her husband, a businessman, has gone back to work and she is also planning to reopen her garments store.

But they will move to a different house. "It is hard to continue living here."

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