In August 2021, my son Jude was born at Scunthorpe General Hospital. It was a chaotic birth, as Jude did not cope at all well with the labour. He was much smaller than anticipated and struggled to maintain his body temperature in those early hours. However, the next day things had settled down and we were ready to go home, excited to begin life in our new baby bubble.
Olivia Cooke with baby Jude. Credit: The Cooke family.
On our second day at home, Jude really struggled with his feeds and stopped feeding completely around midday. We really wanted to get something into him, so we syringed some milk into his mouth, but he was so lethargic, constantly wanting to sleep. We became even more concerned at night time when his breathing started to sound strange, so my husband Tom and I took him to A and E for a check over.
When we were admitted to the hospital Jude’s blood sugar was extremely low. Two direct doses of dextrose from the doctor seemed to bring him round, becoming much more alert and active. However, it was not to last.
Later that morning, Jude started to experience seizures. Despite being given three doses of anti-convulsive medication, his episodes didn’t stop until he was sedated by the Embrace children’s ambulance team for his transfer to Sheffield Children’s Hospital around 12 hours later.
Seeing your new-born baby sedated in an incubator, especially when you’re not used to the hospital environment, is one of the scariest things you can imagine. It is a feeling that I would not wish on any parent. However, knowing what we do now, there is no other team we would have wanted to see, as the Embrace Team are incredible at what they do.
Baby Jude. Credit: Olivia Cooke.
Having given birth three days earlier and running on zero sleep, it was all a bit of a blur. When we arrived at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, which is an hour away from our home, Jude was admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), where he spent his first night. Thankfully his seizures had stopped, so the medical staff gradually brought him out of sedation. He still couldn’t maintain his blood sugar, though, so was put on a dextrose IV dripline to correct his levels, testing him every few hours. He was moved to the high dependency unit (HDU) the following night, before being put on the amazing neonatal surgical unit (NSU) for the rest of his stay.
On Jude’s first night in hospital, we managed a grab a little bit of rest on the settees in the parents’ room, fully expecting to start looking for hotels in the morning. That was a worry for us, especially with us having no idea how long Jude would be there.
However, the nurses on NSU told us about Magnolia House, a ‘Home from Home’ run by The Sick Children’s Trust. It was literally next door to the NSU, and we were so relieved to be given a place to stay there. Suddenly we didn’t have to think about driving between Scunthorpe and Sheffield or paying lots of money for a hotel. It was a massive weight off our shoulders, keeping us together with Jude pretty much all the time, which was so important. We honestly don’t know what we would have done without it.
Tom Cooke with baby Jude. Credit: Olivia Cooke.
It was so great having Magnolia House to rely on. We had our own room with en-suite bathroom, which was massively important for me as someone who had just given birth. Having used the shared parent shower on the ward after a sleeping in parents’ room, having a private one to use made a huge difference.
We also took turns sleeping on a reclining chair on the ward, and while we were so grateful to have that at Jude’s bedside, it wasn’t the comfiest to sleep on! Having an actual bed to sleep in at Magnolia House was just fantastic, while access to shared kitchen and laundry facilities really did make it feel like a home away from home.
Jude ended up being in hospital for a total of four weeks, enduring lots of tests as well as a bit of a trial-and-error process around getting his medication right. He was eventually given a diagnosis of transient hyperinsulinism, meaning Jude was experiencing spikes in the insulin levels in his blood. The doctors would only allow him to go home once his blood sugar stayed stable through a six hour fast, which thankfully, it did. It was such a relief to get him back to home.
The Sick Children’s Trust took a huge worry away from us by providing the free ‘Home from Home’ throughout Jude’s hospital stay, and we will never be able to thank them enough for that. To go some way towards it, Tom completed a marathon last year and raised a huge amount of money.
This year it’s my turn, and I’ll be completing the Great North Run in September to raise more funds for this wonderful charity that really does mean the world to us.
Olivia Cooke, Jude’s mum
Tom and Olivia Cooke accompanied by a smiling Jude on their wedding day. Credit: The Cooke family.