We were in Crawford House over Christmas and it brought a bit of festive cheer to an otherwise dark time

Alex was born weighing just 1lb 13oz and we supported his family at Crawford House

My pregnancy was completely normal up until 25 weeks when I started to notice some bleeding. My partner Joe and I went to our local pregnancy assessment unit in Cramlington where we were told that I was in preterm labour and our baby was on its way, whether we liked it or not.

We were taken in an ambulance to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle as Cramlington doesn’t have any of the equipment needed to safely deliver a baby who is so premature. There was no time to plan and we couldn’t even go home to get anything that we needed. We were completely unprepared.

We arrived at RVI and Alex was born on November 21 2018 weighing just 1lb 13oz. He was so tiny. He needed help with his breathing, had to be fed via a tube and he needed several blood transfusions over the next couple of months.

The night that Alex was born, Joe slept on the floor next to me on the post-natal ward. The next day, Alex’s first day in the world, should have been joyful but we were so tired and distressed because nothing about the birth had gone to plan. The day was also full of uncertainty because Alex was so premature we had no idea how long we were going to need to stay at RVI.

A member of staff from The Sick Children’s Trust approached us while we were on the ward and explained that there was a ‘Home from Home’, called Crawford House, just minutes away where families with seriously ill children in hospital are able to stay for free. We were offered a room and the relief was instantaneous.

“Alex’s first day in the world, should have been joyful but we were so tired and distressed because nothing about the birth had gone to plan. The day was also full of uncertainty because Alex was so premature we had no idea how long we were going to need to stay at RVI.”

We ended up staying at Crawford House for ten weeks and in that time it really did become a ‘Home from Home’. We could wash our clothes, cook food and shower without ever having to be more than a few minutes from Alex. The mental relief of knowing that you are just a few minutes, rather than over half an hour as we would be from our own home, is absolutely invaluable.  It meant that we could focus more on Alex.

We were staying in Crawford House over Christmas and it just didn’t feel the same with our child in hospital. Alex was really poorly in the run up to Christmas and he even needed to have a blood transfusion on Christmas Eve, but at least we could be close to him. The staff at Crawford House were wonderful and they had decorated the ‘Home from Home’ for Christmas. We really appreciated this as it brought a bit of festive cheer to an otherwise dark time.

We can’t wait to celebrate Christmas with our extended family this year, eating Christmas dinner and playing games together as we should have done last year. Christmas is about spending time with family, so we’re encouraging people to give an extra gift this year – to a family who has a sick child in hospital over Christmas. A £30 donation will give the best gift of all – the Gift of Togetherness at Christmas time.

Joe and Sophie Riddell, Alex’s parents

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