Sonny the 'hero baby' defies cancer odds

"Miracle baby" Sonny Davis being rushed from one hospital to another.
"Miracle baby" Sonny Davis being rushed from one hospital to another. Photo: Supplied

Dubbed a "hero baby" by doctors for repeatedly fighting for life in the most trying circumstances, 10-day-old cancer sufferer Sonny Davis is still defying the odds.

Less than two weeks ago Sonny Davis entered the world fighting. He has not stopped fighting since.

The critically ill Townsville boy's battle against the rare childhood cancer neuroblastoma has been so impressive that doctors at Brisbane's Royal Children's Hospital have labelled him their "hero baby".

Sonny was diagnosed with the cancer in utero after his mother Aneka noticed, 32 weeks into her second pregnancy, that her baby had suddenly stopped moving.

Sonny Davis's parents, Corey and Aneka, with his 21-month-old big sister, Frankie.
Sonny Davis's parents, Corey and Aneka, with his 21-month-old big sister, Frankie. Photo: Supplied

What followed was the stuff of parental nightmares: the tiny boy had a stomach swollen by a 6cm tumour.

It had infiltrated his liver, was crushing his still-developing lungs, and his little heart was rapidly failing under the strain.

Townsville doctors decided the only shot he had at life was if his mother, a former WNBL and Olympic basketballer, delivered him eight weeks prematurely by emergency caesarean.

However, as father Corey Davis recalled, the doctors couldn't guarantee Sonny would survive the birth.

"They came and said to Aneka, 'we might try to get you to Brisbane on a Royal Flying Doctor flight because if he can hang in there for another two weeks he has a lot more chance as a 34-week premmie than a 32-week premmie', because it would give it time for his lungs to develop," Mr Davis said.

"The next day they were doing all the readings and everything was going down and down.

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"The doctor came back in and said, 'the bub's deteriorating on the spot, there's no way we'll get you to Brisbane, we need to do a c-section now'."

Mrs Davis was rushed into surgery - but, not for the last time, Sonny defied doctors' expectations by clinging to life.

"He wasn't breathing, he was purple and bloated, and he had a little baby oxygen mask. They were pumping it into him and he just wasn't moving," Mr Davis said.

"It was probably close to two minutes but it felt like an hour. Then finally his hand wriggled."

Gravely ill, Sonny was flown to Brisbane immediately for life-saving chemotherapy.

With his wife recovering from surgery, Mr Davis had to make the trip with his son alone. Once in Brisbane, they were raced to the Royal Women's Hospital neo-natal intensive care unit.

Sonny's blood pressure had skyrocketed, his heart rate was wildly elevated due to the cancer stemming from his adrenal glands, and his oxygen uptake was low. Doctors worked to ensure all those elements had normalised before chemotherapy could commence.

But the youngster fought on.

Mrs Davis arrived two days later with the couple's 21-month-old daughter Frankie. Sonny had stabilised enough for chemotherapy.

For three days, a lifesaving cocktail of 20 drugs were poured into his bloodstream. For the first time, things were looking up.

For the first time in a week, Mr Davis took some time out. It was Saturday, Caulfield Cup Day, so he and his father-in-law headed to a pub to watch the race. But at 3pm they were called back to the hospital, and it was the beginning of Sonny's biggest battle.

At less than a week old, his kidneys had shut down and there was no way for him to excrete the toxic chemotherapy byproducts.

Already swollen with fluid, the boy's skin began to turn black as toxic blood stopped moving under his skin.

"The head oncologist said the worst thing that could happen is if his kidneys don't flush. It all went good on Friday and early Saturday, she said 'it hasn't happened'," Mr Davis said.

"So when his kidneys shut down, they said the only way we can get all the crap out is through his blood."

For what is believed to be the first time in Queensland, doctors used what remained of the boy's umbilical cord to filter some of the toxic sludge out of Sonny's body.

It wasn't enough, and a specialist kidney team was recruited to put Sonny on dialysis.

With his condition rapidly deteriorating, doctors were forced to undertake the incredibly risky move of shifting him from the Royal Women's Hospital to the Royal Children's Hospital paediatric intensive care unit, so he could undergo dialysis.

"His kidneys were the only thing working so when his kidneys went s***, whoa. Saturday wasn't a good day," Mr Davis said.

Mr Davis said the mood among the medical team who gathered to treat him was sombre on Saturday afternoon.

"There was a nurse who left Saturday and she said to us, 'I'm on Monday so I might see you ... ah, um, I mean I'll see you Monday'," he said.

"She didn't mean to say it but we were like, 'oh this is bad'."

Once again Sonny defied the odds; he survived Saturday night. It was then incredulous doctors labelled him their "hero baby".

Once dialysis commenced, his condition steadily improved.

The toxic blood is slowly leaving his body, fluid build-up is subsiding, and his kidneys are showing signs of recovery.

Not only that, doctors say he is responding to chemotherapy, meaning the cancer is unlikely to take his life.

However, tiny Sonny remains the most critically ill patient in the PICU and highly susceptible to infection.

"The head consultant said he is gravely ill, he is on the brink every day," Mr Davis said.

"This is no short fix, he will be here for months and months."

Sonny still faces further rounds of chemotherapy, and probably at least six more months in hospital.

In the meantime, the lives of Mr and Mrs Davis, both Townsville teachers, remain on hold.

The family is eternally optimistic they will eventually take their little boy back to Townsville.

"He's still in the woods but we can see a little bit of light in the woods," Mr Davis said.

"At any stage anything can go wrong but he's won every battle he's fought. He's got a good little spirit."

A bank account has been established for donations to help support the Davis family. Account name: C&A Davis, Westpac St George Bank. BSB number: 114 879. Account number: 412390421.

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