LISTEN: Mystery philanthropist donates €30k to help get baby Zoe Drake home

Jenny Drake with her baby Zoe in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin. Picture: Joe Dunne

A mystery philanthropist has donated €30,000 to the stranded family of miracle baby Zoe Ireland Drake, who hit headlines late last year after she entered the world in dramatic fashion.

The premature baby was born in October, almost four months ahead of schedule, after her mother Jenny went into labour on a flight from Paris to New York. The flight was redirected to Dublin, where an ambulance met Jenny and her husband Gavin, both US citizens, and rushed them to the Rotunda Hospital. A short time later baby Zoe Ireland was born weighing just 820g.

Since Zoe’s immune system is still too weak for her to travel on a commercial flight, Jenny and Gavin have been stranded in Ireland ever since the birth. To get back to their home in Tennessee, they need to get a special, and expensive, private flight complete with all the medical equipment and personnel Zoe needs to make the journey safely.

Medical professionals told the family it would be six months to a year before their daughter’s immune system would be ready for a commercial flight.

“We can’t afford to stay that long, obviously for financial reasons. We can’t afford to stay and we can’t afford to go, that’s our little joke these days,” said Jenny, speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s The Ray D’Arcy Show yesterday.

“Her immune system… Even a common cold could kill her so we have to go privately. We would also need medical staff and medical support in case something happened in the air. A lot of people don’t realise that the oxygen difference above ground like that is significant to such a young baby. So she’d have to be on oxygen during the flight and you’d need somebody to monitor that.”

Jenny and Gavin have been fundraising to get home and had raised €38k of the €67k required when Ray D’Arcy announced live on air that he had a surprise for them. He revealed the show had received a text message from someone who wanted to make up the difference and donate €30k to get Zoe and her family home. His only condition was that he not be named publically.

Zoe Drake after her birth in 2015
Zoe Drake after her birth in 2015

“We got back to this anonymous, generous, philanthropic person, and we checked him out and he’s 100% above board,” said Mr D’Arcy. “He just seems like a really lovely man.”

Jenny said she was speechless at the news and admonished the host for not preparing her for it before going on air.

“Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Okay. I’m not going to be able to talk. Wow,” she said.

“The Irish people. I mean, you guys have a lot to be proud of. You have really taken care of us. For such a small country to have such a big heart… Everyone we have met has just opened their arms, their house, everything to us. You guys have a lot to be proud of.”


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