Our long weekend getaway turned into an eight week stay in hospital

Sarah and her husband Paul were spending the weekend away in London when she gave birth 12 weeks prematurely, 270 miles away from home. Stevenson House made sure they had somewhere stay close to their son Brandon.

Me and my husband Paul were in London for a long weekend getaway for my birthday. I was 28 weeks pregnant so still quite a while away from my due date or so I thought. That was until I gave birth, 270 miles away from our home in Durham.

I wasn’t expecting any problems with us having a trip away with three months to go however on the Sunday morning I woke up with really bad stomach pains. I didn’t think the pain was anything serious and would pass but when it wouldn’t go away Paul said we should go and get checked at the hospital.

We thought we’d be in and out when we arrived at Newham Hospital, in East London, but as the midwife was examining me she became concerned and said she needed to get a doctor. The baby was coming. Before that news could even sink in, I gave birth to Brandon who weighed just 3lb 4oz.

We were miles away from home with our premature son in hospital. We were supposed to be travelling home the next day so Paul hurried to find a hotel so that we had somewhere to stay. We managed to get a room at a Premier Inn, but this was a 20 minute drive away from the hospital. Two days later we got a call that every parent dreads, Brandon had taken a turn for the worse and that we needed to get to the hospital.

“I cannot describe the absolute relief I felt at not having to worry about how we were going to be with our little boy while he was fighting for his life.”

The panic set in straight away. I’d never rushed to get ready so fast before. When we got to the hospital they told us that Brandon had green liquid in his feeding tube and his stomach was really swollen. The doctors did an X-ray and discovered there were shadows on his abdomen. They suspected that he had perforated bowel and would need surgery to correct it, but due to his size they only gave him a 50% chance of surviving. I was still in shock with everything that had happened over the last few days, but this left me completely numb. We barely had any contact with Brandon at this point and now we were told we might lose him.

We were blue lighted from Newham Hospital to the Royal London in Whitechapel so that Brandon could have surgery. While we desperately waited to see if he would pull through, we were going through the same stress of trying to work out where we would stay again. That was when a lovely lady from The Sick Children’s Trust told us they had a place we could stay, free of charge, just a two minute walk away from the hospital at Stevenson House. I didn’t know what to say, it was amazing to know we could stay with Brandon. I cannot describe the absolute relief I felt at not having to worry about how we were going to be with our little boy while he was fighting for his life.

Brandon was extremely lucky as during the surgery the doctors could see that his bowel had healed itself and there were no further tears or fluid leaking. Brandon then spent the next 18 days at the Royal London so that he could be monitored and recover from the surgery. To see our little baby with such a huge scar was so difficult but he was ok and slowly getting better and that was the main thing.

Being able to stay at the charity’s ‘Home from Home’ Stevenson House during this whole time made such an incredible difference. Being able to do all the basic things such as cook meals, clean our clothes and have a properly functioning bathroom just made everything so much easier. I also found it so important to be able to have some time away from the hospital. When Brandon was born I was put on a ward with all the other new mums but they were all holding their babies while I couldn’t even see Brandon properly. It was extremely difficult to be around them without Brandon which is why I left the hospital for our hotel room so quickly. Stevenson House continued to provide that respite, but now we were just a stone’s throw away from the hospital rather than the long walk we had to Newham Hospital.

There are so many benefits to being that close as I could stay with Brandon until the early hours of the morning or come and go as I pleased. I really noticed the difference when we were moved to Durham Hospital as although we only live about a 15 minute drive from the hospital, it felt so much longer than that after I had got used to just walking from Stevenson House.

Brandon was in hospital for a total of eight weeks while we waited for his lungs and immune system to fully develop and for him to learn to feed on his own rather than through a tube. He had also suffered a bleed on the brain, but the doctors monitored this throughout his time in hospital and it hasn’t caused him any problems at the moment and he has recovered well from it. We’re currently waiting for Brandon to have some routine surgery once the coronavirus pandemic is over, but apart from that he is doing absolutely fine.

We will always be so grateful for the amazing support that The Sick Children’s Trust gave us.

Sarah Farrow, Brandon’s mum

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