The Bareham Family
I’d had a normal pregnancy and given birth to a healthy, strapping 9lb 2oz baby which we named Thor. His older brother Roman was thrilled to have another boy in the house to play with and couldn’t wait to meet him! We wrapped him up warm and took him home during a cold and wet autumn.
It was November and the sniffles were going around. When four week old Thor became blocked up and chesty, I thought he had his first cold and got the baby Vicks and Calpol ready, taking him to the GP as a precaution. But the next day things got much worse.
Thor started to struggle to breathe and was rushed by ambulance to our local hospital in Lister. We were told he had bronchiolitis: an inflammation of the smallest air passages in the lungs. Doctors said the next few days were crucial.
After two days in hospital on various machines, the decision was made to ventilate baby Thor. Nothing was working and his breathing was becoming critical. He was so ill that the doctors didn't even have the time to move him into theatre and had to do the procedure down on the ward. We were beside ourselves.
Thor was so unstable that he needed to wait for the Children's Acute Transport Service to transfer him to a specialist paediatric intensive care ward at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. After hours on a ventilator in adult intensive care, we were finally on our way.
Once we arrived at Addenbrooke’s we were left in the relatives’ room while they got Thor into a cot and linked up the life-support machine that was breathing for him. The pressure needed to pump the air into his tiny lungs was so great, that doctors feared it could burst holes in his airways.
That first night, myself and my partner Ryan were left to sleep on the sofas in the small relatives’ room. Then, the next night we made up camp on the floor of the children's playroom on another ward, with strict instructions from the nurses to be out by 7am when the room would be back in use.
After two days of unimaginable stress without any sleep, Monday morning came round and we met Joy from The Sick Children’s Trust’s Acorn House. She came over to the hospital to tell us we could have a room in a special ‘Home from Home’ just minutes’ from Thor’s bedside.
This room made such a different to our stay at Addenbrooke’s. It allowed us to still feel close to Thor and to visit him whenever we wanted. With a direct telephone line to the PICU ward, we could call to see how our baby was at any time of the day or night. With Thor being so poorly, this was incredibly reassuring during the few hours we left his side to have a family meal, take a shower and sleep.
Ryan is self-employed, so after 9 days without work and any income, he had to make the difficult decision to go home and back to work. If we hadn’t had the room at Acorn, financially it would have been impossible to be with our baby. There is no way we could have travelled to and from our home an hour’s drive away in Stevenage every day, or found the money to pay for a hotel room to stay in the centre of Cambridge.
Acorn House truly was a ‘Home from Home’ for us, and for Roman who was only 3 at the time. Knowing we didn’t have to worry about him was very soothing for both of us. From the day Thor was taken into hospital, we hadn't spent any time with Roman. The family room in Acorn House meant he was able to stay with his mummy and daddy and visit his baby brother when Thor was well enough. He loved the large playroom and still now, over a year later, he asks if we can go to the 'hospital house' to play.
Acorn House helped my family through such an emotional and frightening time. The staff are amazing - so friendly and welcoming - and the house is fantastic.
Acorn House and The Sick Children Trust need donations; it has to keep running as it helps so many families. This is a truly wonderful charity.
We’ve already held a fundraising day in our local community and have another event in the pipeline. Anything we can do to give something back to the charity which helped us stay together as a family. We just wouldn’t have coped without their support.
Stacey Bareham, mum to Thor and Roman