During the summer of 2011, like all first time parents, we attended parent classes which included a tour of Loveridge Ward. This included the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) which has been heavily supported by the Priaulx Premature Baby Foundation. Whilst we were in the unit I said to Rob “This is impressive, fingers crossed we don’t need to use it”, little did we know that within a matter of weeks we would find ourselves in the Neonatal Unit at Princess Anne’s Hospital, Southampton with our first born.
Isaac made a speedy arrival on 10 October 2011 at 34 weeks and 5 days. He was evidently severely ill as his abdomen was distended and was fairly lifeless upon delivery. Dr Bohin and a paediatric nurse worked on him in the delivery suite for about 10 minutes before whisking him off to SCBU. It was over 2 hours before we were able to visit him and at that point nobody seemed to be able to tell us what was wrong with him. Later that evening he was put on to a ventilator and early the following morning we found ourselves on a MediVac to the UK.
We arrived at the hospital where Isaac was admitted to the Neonatal ward and I was admitted to the maternity ward. We were subsequently told that we should prepare to be in the UK for several weeks.
Late that afternoon a surgeon came to visit us who told us that Isaac had been born with a perforated bowel, a condition known as meconium peritonitis which affects 1 in 35,000 babies and is a symptom of cystic fibrosis. The surgeon advised us that she would be clearing out his abdomen and told us that if Isaac was found to not have sufficient healthy gut that there was little she would be able to do for him.
After being sent to say our ‘goodbyes’ what followed were probably the worst 6 hours of our lives. Isaac was operated on in the Neonatal ward as he was too ill to be transported to surgery. At around 12.30am the surgeon visited us and told us that Isaac’s surgery could not have gone any better and that he had a full healthy gut. This was excellent news but we had a long way to go yet.
Isaac was given a stoma and had bags attached to this for his bowels to empty into. He remained on the ventilator for over 4 days and wasn’t given his first milk until Saturday 15th October and we finally got to hold our son on the Sunday.
The following three weeks became a routine of us visiting Isaac from around 9am until 10pm every day. We were able to help feed him, change him and care for him but this was far from what we imagined having our first baby would be.
On 31 October we were given the fantastic new that Isaac did not have cystic fibrosis and on 2 November we took him in a pram for the first time from the Neonatal Ward at the Princess Anne’s Hospital to Southampton General across the road where they performed a second surgery to reverse his stoma as he was having difficulty gaining weight.
Isaac bounced back from surgery very quickly and began eating well and gaining weight. We were able to return home with him, after 29 days on the neonatal ward on 8 November, a day that we will never forget.
Whilst all this was going on Rob and I stayed in a hotel for the majority of the time and would get the bus to and from the hospital. Each morning whilst sat on the bus I would become more and more anxious about what the day was going to bring and having to leave Isaac every night was extremely difficult. We must have only been a few miles away from him but it may as well have been a million.
We noticed that there were a block of flats being built next to the hospital and we decided whilst we there that we would try and raise enough money to purchase one of these flats so that anybody who found themselves in a situation similar to ours would not have to endure that dreaded bus journey and could remain much closer to their baby. It would also mean they would have somewhere to do their laundry, cook a bowl of pasta and feel slightly more at home than living out of a hotel.
Unbeknownst to us the wheels had already been set in motion to purchase one of these flats and we know of many families who have unfortunately had to make use of its facilities since it has been available. Rob and I will be forever grateful to all those involved in Isaac’s care and cannot express how incredibly lucky we feel to have such a healthy and happy son.
We hope if you ever find yourselves needing to use Isaac’s Pad that it makes a very tough journey a little bit easier and gives you a home away from home.