Helen Hudson’s daughter Emmeline spent a total of 75 days in neonatal intensive care units (NICU), being born three months early without a heartbeat and weighing just 2lbs (905 grams) at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax before being resuscitated and transferred to Bradford for specialist care.
Due to her size and under-developed lungs, Emmeline – whose twin sister Beatrice sadly died in the womb due to Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome 20 weeks into the pregnancy – was readmitted to Calderdale five days later before eventually being allowed to come home on 15 July, the birthday of her namesake Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragette who helped women win the right to vote. However, it was not the end of her challenges. Helen said:
Emmeline Hudson with mum Helen at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Credit: Helen Hudson.
“With premature babies often having complications that hang around long after they leave hospital, I was extremely anxious for her wellbeing. I was accessing one-to-one support for my anxiety when, three months after leaving NICU, my worst fears came true. Emmeline contracted human metapneumovirus and fell seriously ill with bronchiolitis, being blue-lighted to Calderdale’s A&E department. The very thing I was anxious about and had been receiving therapy for had happened, and it was just devastating.”
With Emmeline’s bodily systems shutting down and a shortage of paediatric intensive care unit beds across the whole of Yorkshire, Humber and the North West due to a wave of bronchiolitis admissions, she was transferred by ambulance to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), some 120 miles from home, for treatment. Helen accompanied Emmeline in the ambulance, with husband Chris – who was looking after the couple’s then three-year-old son Ted – following by car. It was in Newcastle where The Sick Children’s Trust first came to the family’s aid, providing a place to stay at their Crawford House ‘Home from Home’. Helen said:
“I was such a long way from home, feeling extremely vulnerable and worried about everything. I was desperately in need of a base, a place I could retreat to while still being as close to Emmeline as possible. Crawford House proved to be the most incredible place of sanctuary at what was a very frightening time for me. To have that private space away from the stresses, strains and noises of the paediatric intensive care unit was just so important for my wellbeing. I wanted to be with Emmeline all the time, but Crawford House gave me that place to regroup and recharge, which was vital for my own mental health.”
After three nights, a decision was made to move Emmeline closer to home, being transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Again, The Sick Children’s Trust played a vital role in keeping the family together, with Helen staying for six nights at their Magnolia House ‘Home from Home’. Helen said:
Baby Emmeline finally came home from hospital on 17 November 2021, World Prematurity Day. Credit: Helen Hudson.
“My room at Magnolia House became a place of sanctuary for me, a private place where I could not only sleep and shower but also have a cry or express milk. While I never wanted to be away from her side, I knew how important it was to look after myself so I could be at my best to take care of Emmeline.”
Six days later, Emmeline was well enough to be moved off PICU, and was soon transferred back to Calderdale before eventually going home on the most fitting of dates: 17 November 2021, World Prematurity Day. Helen said:
“After such a long, emotional journey, it was wonderful to finally get her home. To look at her now, it’s hard to believe that this time two years ago she had been so poorly. Emmeline is now two and a half, feistier and more determined than ever, and thriving. She’s meeting all her developmental milestones, attends forest school four days a week and absolutely loves it. She is an absolute joy, we feel so incredibly lucky to be able to watch her grow, learn, and thrive.
“When I think back to those dark weeks two years ago, when she was so poorly and in PICU, I remember how grateful I was to have a comfortable, private room to take a breath whilst being so close to Emmeline, with the ‘Homes from Home’ being on the hospital sites in Newcastle and Sheffield. The Sick Children’s Trust houses were a lifeline for me in so many ways.”
Chris and Helen Hudson with children Ted (centre) and Emmeline (bottom right). Credit: Helen Hudson.