At Chestnut House, we finally started to feel like parents
The thought of Jude being in hospital over Christmas turns my stomach. Christmas wouldn’t exist for me if I had to be separated from my son and I think that would be the case for so many people. But with the help of The Sick Children’s Trust, families can be together at Christmastime even if their child is in hospital.
There was something about Jude’s arrival into the world that says a lot about his character! I was working in London when my waters broke at 33 and half weeks pregnant. The nearest hospital was University London College Hospital where they managed to slow down the labour using medication. A few days later, I found myself in the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow giving birth.
At 34 weeks, Jude should’ve been a lot better than he was. When he was born he was breathing and I was fortunate enough to get a cuddle, but from that moment he went downhill. He should’ve been taking 60 breaths a minute, but was only taking two. He just wasn’t ready for the world.
We spent five days waiting for Jude to show signs of improvement. He was on a machine to help him breathe and was sedated.
The day came when there was nothing more the team in Harlow could do for Jude and he needed to be transferred to The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge. As they got him ready to be transferred it hit us like a ton of bricks that Jude was really quite poorly. It will be a sight I will never forget. I really wanted to go with him in the transport vehicle, but it was scary and completely overwhelming seeing my baby surrounded by machines. I was encouraged to go in the car with Shaun instead.
With nothing but the clothes on our backs, we made the long journey to The Rosie Hospital not knowing what to expect at the other end.
There is no time to plan or prepare when your baby is born early and seriously ill. Amongst our friends and family, we are the first to have been through something like this. No one has ever had a premature baby and could tell us what to expect.
After we saw Jude on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Rosie Hospital, we were met by a lovely lady from The Sick Children’s Trust who asked us if we would like to stay in the charity’s ‘Home from Home’ Chestnut House. As a new parent you can’t comprehend being separated from your newborn – thankfully we didn’t have to think about that because of this charity.
Not only did The Sick Children’s Trust take away the endless stresses and concerns that would’ve come without having a place to stay, suddenly we started to feel the situation was less daunting. We were shown around Chestnut House, there was a living room and a kitchen. It looked like someone’s home. We were shown to our room, which had an en-suite. Things started to feel normal.
Over the next few days, the team at the hospital tried to improve Jude’s breathing and we actually started to feel like parents. Although we couldn’t hold him we could do the little things that mean so much like change his nappy and help with his tube feeds. Chestnut House meant that we could do this because we were just a lift ride away at all times. We didn’t miss a single moment.
I honestly don’t know what we would’ve done if we hadn’t been given a place to stay. We would’ve been split up and taken it in turns to sleep on the hospital floor somewhere. We needed to be together to support each other. After we left The Rosie Hospital, we went back to our local where we had to leave Jude every night and although it was an eight minute drive I felt every one of those minutes. All sorts of things were going through my mind, so I’m so grateful that when Jude was at his worst we didn’t have to go through that.
Jude is now nine months old and doing really well – sometimes I think they’ve given me the wrong baby! He is showing no repercussions of his prematurity and is so energetic, eats absolutely anything and is making up for the first three weeks he spent in hospital.
It will be Jude’s first Christmas this year and we’re really looking forward to spending it with him, our families and all of the children in the family who make Christmas even more special!
Being together is what Christmas is all about and it really upsets me to think of it being spent any other way. There’s such a shortage of places to stay when your child is in hospital, but The Sick Children’s Trust is keeping as many families together by their sick child’s bedside as possible. By donating £30 you will be giving a family the gift of togetherness, a place where they can rest their head at night, wake up refreshed and calm knowing they only have a short walk to see their child. No one should have to be separated from their child because they’re in hospital, and with your help they don’t have to be.
Every year we help almost 3,800 families by giving them somewhere to stay near their seriously ill child’s hospital bedside. Sign up to receive our email newsletters to stay up to date with how your support is helping to keep families together.