We cannot thank Chestnut House and The Sick Children’s Trust enough. Without the charity and their amazing facilities we would have been truly lost when our son was rushed to a hospital 20 miles away for lifesaving treatment.
I was nearly 38 weeks pregnant and my husband Chris and I attended our final NCT class before baby James was due to arrive. I had felt reduced foetal movements so as a precaution we decided to go to Hinchingbrooke Hospital. A scan revealed he was sleepy and unresponsive – and I was 2cm dilated. I was extremely worried, as I really thought we’d just be sent home. We became more concerned when a doctor accompanied the midwife into the room and insisted on breaking my waters. Not something we were expecting that evening. It was 23:30 and our baby was showing signs of distress and I was rushed in for a caesarean. It all happened so fast that I could hardly take it all in, but at 00:25 our son Harvey Peter James arrived into the world. But his arrival wasn’t what we expected.
Harvey didn’t cry. The team started to resuscitate him but he just couldn’t take in his first breath. This was all happening around us in the operating theatre, Chris holding my hand as the team looked after me. We couldn’t see anything but we just knew something was wrong. It was horrendously scary. Harvey didn’t breathe for several minutes – it felt like forever until he final took that precious breath.
Harvey was taken to the neonatal unit while I was wheeled back to my room. A lifetime seemed to pass before we received any news on how our baby was. Harvey needed to be taken immediately to The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge, located on the Addenbrooke’s Hospital site, for lifesaving treatment. He was only an hour old and I hadn’t even met him yet. Before they took him away, they brought Harvey to my room. He was strapped into an incubator and there were so many tubes and wires around him. He was on assisted ventilation and it was so traumatic to see our little baby looking so poorly. It’s an image I’ll never ever forget as that was the first time we got to see him, not at all how we’d envisaged it would be.
We didn’t want Harvey to be on his own, so Chris went with him to Cambridge. There are no words to describe the pain, upset and loss I felt not being able to go with him. I’d had massive surgery and couldn’t travel – thankfully my sister drove straight over to be with me which gave me some comfort – but not being with Harvey and Chris was the hardest thing ever and I felt helpless.
Before Chris left, he was told about Chestnut House run by The Sick Children’s Trust. We had free accommodation sorted for Chris when he arrived which meant he didn’t have to worry about making the journey. Chris being able to stay at Chestnut House was truly unbelievable. I couldn’t have coped if he’d had to travel back and forth to our home in Upper Cambourne and us all being separated.
The following afternoon I was transferred to Cambridge and spent three days on the ward. Without the support of The Sick Children’s Trust I would’ve felt panicked and so very lost not having Chris with me. It was such a scary time. Harvey had been diagnosed with a brain injury, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, caused by a lack of oxygen and blood to his brain. He needed immediate medical attention which is why he was so quickly rushed to Cambridge. For three days he was wrapped in a whole body cooling armour to reduce his body temperature to that of a fridge and then re-warmed to his core temperature in an attempt to halt any potential brain damage.
Harvey spent a further week in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after his cooling therapy and I was also discharged then joined Chris in Chestnut House. Chestnut House was so supportive, always giving me and Chris a warm welcome. The team would ask about Harvey every day and would always ask if we needed anything. They were a constant throughout what was such a turbulent time. Their support was greatly appreciated.
Harvey made excellent progress and was eventually discharged from NICU – but wasn’t able to be fully discharged from the hospital. For a few days, Harvey and I stayed on a maternity ward so that the team could continue to monitor him and we could have a period of normalisation. Chris remained at Chestnut House during this time which was so important because as I’ve said, I’d have been lost without him by my side.
The Sick Children’s Trust is an unbelievable charity enabling parents to stay in hospital while their child is poorly and receiving treatment. The staff are amazing and extremely supportive. Without the charity’s help, finding a way to keep our family together would’ve been incredibly hard. Chris would’ve had to stay in a nearby hotel or travel from home each day, but that dilemma was taken out of our hands thanks to The Sick Children’s Trust which we will be forever grateful for.
Harvey is now doing well, after numerous tests and follow up appointments. We are delighted to have him at home and to be enjoying our time as a family of three.
Harvey has been such a brave, courageous and determined little boy. We are extremely lucky, he’s our superstar! He is our biggest achievement and is immensely precious to us.
This year we’re celebrating his first Christmas which we’re so excited for. We will be spending it with both our families and cannot wait to spoil him.
Emily James, Harvey’s mum