Joshua was just ten weeks old when he was rushed to a hospital miles away from home after becoming seriously ill with bronchiolitis.
His dad, Dan, and I had no idea that he was so poorly. He was showing all the normal cold symptoms, from a runny nose to sneezing and coughing. I started to worry when his cough seemed to get slightly worse, though apart from that he seemed his normal self. I took him to our local doctors’ surgery just to be safe and the nurse who saw him noticed that he was sucking in his stomach when breathing. As a precaution, she sent us to the children’s ward at the Cumberland Infirmary, our local hospital.
At first, they weren’t too concerned and Joshua was put on a bit of oxygen and that was it. Throughout the night, the infection in the smallest airways on Joshua’s lungs took hold and his breathing became worse. By the time morning arrived he was really struggling and was rushed into intensive care and ventilated. Seeing how poorly he was getting, the team arranged for Joshua to be moved to another hospital. While we were being told this, a specialist transport team from Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, called NECTAR, were on their way to collect Joshua and take him there. Waiting for the NECTAR team to arrive, which seemed to be Joshua’s only hope, was horrible. We didn’t really know what was going on or what to expect and couldn’t do anything but watch our baby boy struggle for every breath he took.
When we arrived at Newcastle, Joshua was taken to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). It was a Sunday and I didn’t leave his side until I was told I had to. Having somewhere to stay didn’t cross my mind. I just thought I’d be able to be with Joshua while he was so poorly – but I couldn’t be all the time.
I’d never heard of Crawford House until a lovely lady came over to the ward and told us she worked for a charity called The Sick Children’s Trust which ran the ‘Home from Home’. As we walked around Crawford House, which was only a couple of minutes from PICU, we felt reassured. The staff were so nice and welcoming. The first thing we were shown in our room was a phone which dialled straight to the ward. This meant we could speak to Joshua’s nurses whatever the time of day.
We stayed in Newcastle for nine days while Joshua built his strength up. For four days he remained on a ventilator, was hooked up to a drip giving him antibiotics and had daily suctions to get rid of the secretions in his lungs. It was a lot for a little baby to go through but Joshua seemed to be doing well so they attempted to take him off the ventilator and put him on a nasal tube. We felt like things were turning around and were so happy. Sadly, it didn’t go to plan and he had to be intubated again. It felt like we had one of the best days and felt hope, but it was short lived. He was back to square one.
We felt very lucky to have Crawford House during this time as it was a place we could escape to when we wanted to be alone. We were also missing our daughter, Freya, who was three years old then. The staff told us that she’d be welcome to stay with us, which was lovely, but she was enjoying staying with her grandparents. What we did do was video call her from our room as it was private, but mostly because it didn’t look like a hospital setting. It was homely so wouldn’t upset her.
Days passed and the doctors were gradually reducing Joshua’s oxygen. Although he was improving, the doctors wanted to wait to be sure he was strong enough before taking him off the ventilator however Joshua took that decision out of their hands. The alarm was sounded and the doctor called for the resus trolley. I was taken out of the room, panicking as Dan wasn’t with me and I had no idea what was happening. Joshua had dangerously dislodged his breathing tube but amazingly was breathing on his own! From then he did really well and we were sent back to Cumberland Infirmary the following day which is when we left Crawford House.
We will never forget the help we received. The Sick Children’s Trust takes one little worry away at a very worrying and stressful time. We were lucky to have their help and will be forever grateful.
As we were back in Carlisle it meant we could see our little girl again and Dan could stay at home with her while I stayed at hospital with Joshua. When he was ventilated, Joshua would cry silently, but here he got his voice back and could cry again. I never thought I would miss hearing a cry but when your baby cries silently its horrible. Once Joshua got his feeding tube removed and started feeding normally we were then able to go home together.
I’m pleased to say that Joshua recovered well and has only needed hospital treatment once since then. He is prone to chest infections and takes inhalers but otherwise is a healthy, happy two year old.
Amanda Welsh, Freya and Joshua’s mum