Jemma and Heemi Paewhenua know what it’s like to do it tough. In the past 18 months, this devoted young couple have lost their son, their house and their business.
After enduring all this sadness, the family faced another devastating blow, nearly losing their caravan home to the bushfires that ravaged NSW last weekend.
To say it’s been tough for the newlyweds is an incredible understatement.
But through the pain, Jemma and Heemi have found their happy ending – a darling newborn baby named Latrell. And this little prem fighter has a very special message to share with the CFA heroes who saved his home and kept his family from yet another heartbreaking loss. Watch the video message below. And try not to cry – we couldn’t!
Loss and a new life – Jemma’s story
In February 2017, Jemma and Heemi welcomed their first child – a little boy named Harrison – only to discover the baby they’d both so longed for had severe brain damage. Rather than planning a homecoming, his shattered parents planned his funeral.
As we can imagine, the loss nearly broke the couple. It left Jemma with post traumatic stress disorder and unable to work. They sold their home and fledgling yoga business in Wollongong and packed their bags to stay with family in Milton, on the NSW South Coast, until they got back on their feet.
They moved into a caravan on her grandparents’ property, tied the knot and then set to work renovating it into their own slice of paradise.
Soon after, Jemma fell pregnant again. The couple were thrilled when a gender reveal earlier this year showed they were having another little boy. After months of heartbreak, things were finally looking bright again.
But just when happiness crept in, fate tried to snatch it away. Their new baby was born much too soon, at just 23 weeks and 6 days gestation.
Doctors gave baby Latrell a 50 per cent chance of survival, but the Paewhenuas wouldn’t give up hope. In between hospital visits, the pair set to work extending their humble caravan to include a nursery for Latrell so they could give their little fighter a proper homecoming.
‘You didn’t just save our home. You saved our new beginning.’
But, once again, things took a turn for the worse only last week when a bushfire roared towards the family’s home. The NSW Rural Fire Service and other volunteers managed to save the property, but one of the helicopter pilots, Allan Tull, lost his life when his helicopter crashed.
In the aftermath of the NSW bushfire, Jemma shared an incredibly poignant video outlining the string of tragic events that has brought them to where they are today and thanking those who battled on their behalf.
“I posted it hoping it would reach Allan’s family and give them a bit of warmth — something to smile about.
“I am grateful for the compassion shown towards our family, but more so wanted to get people thinking about how they can contribute and how they can help other people, because Allan and these firefighters have helped so many,” Jemma told reporters.
“If that fire had taken [our home] it would literally have stolen all we have left.”
A happy homecoming for Latrell
As Latrell gears up to head home for the first time, Jemma is focusing on the positives.
“For now it’s all about being humble and appreciating family and life,” she says.
“If anyone else is going through hard times out there, as hard as it is at the time, everything truly does happen for a reason. If you work through your emotions and don’t just shut things down, you’ll get through it.
“And remember to help others, because it does make a difference.”
We wish the Paewhenua family all the best with their new beginning.
For more stories that hit you in the heart, take a look at this video that shows a police officer’s desperate dash to save a toddler rescued from a hot car.