Brave Zac is set to make it home for Christmas

Zac Burnell
Zac Burnell

It’s been a rollercoaster year - but finally little Zac Burnell is on his way home in time for Christmas.

The youngster, who has a rare condition which affects his breathing, has spent most of his young life so far on the high dependency unit at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, as he requires round-the-clock care.

But now Zac’s parents Steve, aged 40, and Emma, 32, have been able to arrange for care staff to look after him at their home in Maltby, Rotherham - and the house will also be transformed with a special extension to make him as comfortable as possible.

“It’s fabulous,” said Steve, who cares for his son full-time.

“Home is the best place for him.”

Zac was born last September weighing just two pounds, and was diagnosed with tracheobronchomalacia soon afterwards. The condition means the cartilage in his windpipe is too weak and can collapse simply as a result of breathing.

The infant - who also suffers from an immune disorder and protein intolerance - was given a tracheotomy, allowing him to be attached to a ventilator 24 hours a day.

Staff from the children’s hospital have taught Steve and Emma, a student nurse, how to look after Zac and work his ventilator, while Doncaster-based construction firm Anyway and the Rotherham Lions club have set to work on the home improvements.

“The staff have been great in helping us build up our confidence with taking care of Zac outside the hospital environment,” said Steve.

“We have been able to take him for a picnic in the park and to Meadowhall - it’s great when we can get him out for the day.

“Zac’s prognosis is good and it is hoped when he is older the cartilage in his trachea will be strong enough to support his breathing without a ventilator.”

The couple’s oldest son Andrew, 12, is also currently in remission from leukaemia, and seven years ago they lost a baby daughter to stillbirth. They also have another son Luke, nine.

Steve added: “Our family have been through such a time of trauma and chaos over several years. We are so grateful everyone has come together to get Zac home.”

The extension will provide Zac with a purpose-built room, while the Lions will work on making the garden more accessible. He is due to move in on November 27.