Our eldest son, Henry, arrived into the world 13 weeks early and as a result he needed significant support from Southend Hospital and The Royal London Hospital over 40-miles away from home.
As a first time father, you’re already feeling a little apprehensive about the arrival of your child. You’re not quite sure what to expect or what to do. You are reassured by your friends who are already parents and your very own parents telling you it will all be ok.
Nine out of ten times, it will be ok. And it will be the most joyous moment. Assuming, everything goes to plan. Becoming a Dad earlier than expected was both the happiest and most stressful moment. As Henry was so premature, we knew our little man would have a tough battle, though we had no idea what to expect.
He was so small when he was born, so fragile and not long after he was across the country for specialist treatment at The Royal London Hospital – where the next five months were unimaginable. Henry had to undergo four major operations in the first five months of his life for necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) – a serious condition often affecting very premature babies, causing tissue in the bowel to deteriorate and die.
Not only that, Henry caught a bout of pneumonia.
I look back at the time now and without a doubt, it makes me incredibly emotional. I recently did an 80km solitary walk and not surprisingly it gave me a lot of time to reflect on how far we’ve come as a family. I now have a younger son and both boys are absolute bundles of fun – but I will never forget the stress, worry and constant agonising I went through as a first-time parent, watching my son struggle.
When Henry was transferred to The Royal London, his condition was critical and what broke our hearts was the fact we had to leave him as there was nowhere for us to stay. Can you imagine travelling home every evening with no other option? I can’t describe the pain we felt.
What made the house so precious was that if we needed to break away from the hospital environment, we could. If we needed to lie down, we could. If we needed to cry, we could. Stevenson House was a real rock for us, not forgetting how good and supportive the house team were.
We couldn’t be more thankful for the help The Sick Children’s Trust gave us, so when I was trekking for 18 hours and my feet were sore and my legs ached beyond belief, these were the thoughts that kept me going.
We could stay by our son’s side, throughout it all, because of The Sick Children’s Trust. What would we have done without it?
He may have put us through it, but Henry is absolutely fantastic. Full of life, full of smiles. He loves his little brother, Arthur, and is really looking forward to starting school this September.
Seeing him grow up over these last few years have meant the world to me, my wife and family, and now, I make sure I reassure all my friends, that being a father is not something to worry about, it is something where you need to treasure every, single moment.
Alex Lindsay, Henry’s Dad