Stuart and I were at home when we got the call to tell us we had to get to hospital right away. Immediately. My stomach sank as I believed our four day baby boy had passed away.
Our son, Kit, had been in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Southend University Hospital as he was born 12 weeks early. Prior to this, I had been admitted to The Queen Charlotte Hospital in London for four weeks as my waters had broken at 24 weeks most probably due to having an operation to try and fix the TTTS (twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome – where blood flows unevenly between the babies) and then losing Kit’s twin at 21 weeks. However at 28 weeks pregnant, I was allowed back home to Southend. I was there for one night and just had a feeling that Kit would be arriving soon, so I packed a bag. The next day I went into labour.
I didn’t see Kit when he was born. He was rushed off to the NICU straight away, but thankfully Stuart got to see him and took a little video for me. He was 2lb and 6oz which was quite a good weight for a baby his age, so we felt some reassurance.
That night we received the call, Kit had stopped breathing twice and became so unwell that they couldn’t look after him anymore at Southend Hospital. We only live a five minute drive away, but I felt the furthest I possibly could be from my son. To not be with him when he needed me broke my heart.
Within a couple of hours, Kit was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Someone told us we’d be able to stay close by at Chestnut House, run by The Sick Children’s Trust. We’d soon realise just how much of a difference it would make. It wasn’t just a room close to our son that was important, it was living with strangers who would become the friends we needed at that time as they knew exactly what we were going through.
When we saw Kit, he had been intubated and we were told he was very poorly. At that time, there was something wrong with every organ in his body and we didn’t know if he would survive.
Added to this, I unknowingly had an infection. I felt horrendous but I just thought it was a result of my caesarean and it wasn’t until the staff on the ward noticed my fever and shaking. For those first couple of nights, I remained on a ward with Stuart by my side just one corridor away from Kit.
We couldn’t wait to get into Chestnut House. It meant we could be close to our baby when he needed us most. We couldn’t do anything for him but be there and The Sick Children’s Trust made that possible. After receiving that call at four days old, and how awful I felt by not being able to be with my baby when he was so poorly really made Chestnut House invaluable. We could visit Kit whenever we wanted as we were just the floor below; a lift ride away from his side. At 3am when I couldn’t sleep, I knew I could go and see him. If he became really ill during the night, we would be able to be by his side within minutes.
We stayed in Chestnut House for four weeks while Kit was on NICU and the team tried to wean him off oxygen and build up his strength. During this time, he had 1-2-1 care which was amazing. It could be really overwhelming at times, with dozens of doctors and nurses tending to him and as Kit suffered a bleed on the brain when he stopped breathing, he was very closely monitored.
For two weeks it was touch and go. When we’d had a bad day, it was a relief to know we didn’t have to go far to lay down or even just take a little bit of time out. We could put a boxset on at Chestnut House and just gather ourselves for a little while knowing that if anything changed the nurses would call us.
Gradually Kit grew stronger and two weeks later was put in an ambulance and transferred back to Southend. It was such a huge milestone for us. It was one step closer to home. Although we didn’t have on-site accommodation at Southend, I felt better about leaving Kit at night to go home. We spent those evenings getting everything ready for Kit to come home. We were looking forward to starting our life together and that’s exactly what we did a few weeks later.
Kit is doing so well since being home and to celebrate we decided to raise money for The Sick Children’s Trust. We wanted to cover our stay because we know that the charity relies on donations to give families a place to stay that’s warm, comfortable and free of charge. This helped us in so many ways, so by raising £2500 we know that a ‘Home for Home’ will give another family the same comfort it did us.
Kim Coussins, Kit’s mum