Once you bring your baby home from hospital, you think you’re safe. I was completely wrong.
Robbie is my second born and such a well behaved baby. When we brought Robbie home, he would sleep all day, take a bottle without a fuss, burp instantly and settle right away. It was so easy and he was the perfect little addition to our family.
At two weeks old, Robbie started to refuse his feeds so I took him to my local walk-in centre thinking he was constipated and dehydrated. Within a minute of walking through the door, he was ripped from my arms, floppy and turning blue. I was later told he had respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchitis and E.coli which led to sepsis. He was ventilated and sent to Sheffield Children’s Hospital on life-support.
I’d never been to Sheffield in my life. I had no idea where I was going or what the hospital would be like. I rang my partner, Robert, and he was on standby to come and collect me from Sheffield as I didn’t know if I would be able to stay over with Robbie. The thought of having to leave him terrified me.
Once Robbie was stabilised, the nurse said to me I’d arrived too late in the night to be placed into Magnolia House. I had no idea what Magnolia House was at this stage but was grateful that I could at least sleep on a chair, not having to leave Robbie alone in hospital. Over the next day, I heard the nurse make lots of phone calls mentioning Magnolia House. Still confused, I found out that it was a place run by a charity called The Sick Children’s Trust and was a place for parents to stay. I assumed it would be a hostel or some kind of shared complex. I was expecting to have to share a room with others in a similar situation and I was thankful for any help I would receive. My life had changed within seconds. I was in a situation where my child was fighting for their life and all I wanted to do was be with my son. Magnolia House would give me the opportunity to do that.
I was met by a lovely lady from Magnolia House who came to get me. I started to put my coat on as I expected we would be going outside, off site from the hospital. She said to me I wouldn’t need my coat. I followed her down the hospital corridor and I saw the sign for the Magnolia House entrance which was tucked away around a little corner. Once inside, I was blown away.
We spent just minutes filling in some paperwork before I was handed my keys. When your child is very sick, you don’t want to be away for long and this felt very well handled and efficient. I was then told that my partner would be allowed to stay with me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Music to my ears. I rang my partner crying with relief that I’d have his support. He came down to Sheffield the same day.
Robbie was ventilated for two weeks in total, he also underwent two lumbar punctures to check for meningitis but both samples were inconclusive. The consultants decided to go ahead and treat Robbie with a three week course of antibiotics through a surgically fitted line in his leg. I was told we would be in hospital for the entire three week course and I was very upset at the thought of not being able to see my toddler at home.
This is why Magnolia House helped us so much as I wasn’t alone. I had my partner by my side which was a godsend. I suffer with a panic disorder myself, so the thought of being alone for the month was terrifying. Magnolia House also gave us a quiet place we could go to and video call my toddler. It wasn’t in a hospital setting, it was warm and homely and for my daughter, who is old enough to understand what the hospital means, she didn’t become unsettled or scared seeing her mummy in the hospital with her little brother. Magnolia House gave us a safe and calming space to catch up with her.
Seeing your child ventilated is very hard. You want to be there for them, but it is so difficult emotionally and physically to see that. Although I didn’t want to leave his side, the nurse told me to go back to Magnolia House to rest. This was hard to do as any mother would understand leaving a sick baby isn’t easy or ideal, but I had to do it for my own mental health. It was what I needed to do and Magnolia House was such a calm environment away from the chaos of the ward. So I would go, eat something and then return for a while before going back to sleep.
Even having a solid address at Magnolia House helped. It seems trivial but it was one less thing to worry about when ordering food or a taxi. We didn’t have to explain what entrance to go to or what floor we would be on. It was something I didn’t realise how much I’d need.
Robbie made a full recovery and is a happy, healthy little baby who’s meeting all of his milestones. He was small for his gestational age before admission and due to being tube fed is now even smaller, but he’s growing at his own steady rate and is expected to catch up within his first year.
Lily Paziuk, Robbie’s mum