My partner Martin and I were so excited when we discovered we were finally expecting a baby after two years of trying.
However, our lives fell apart late one Monday evening in February 2014 when I was diagnosed with the rare pregnancy complications severe pre-eclampsia and severe HELLP syndrome. I was immediately admitted to Bedford Hospital, which is our local district general.
The only cure for these conditions is to deliver the baby. Without that, both mother and baby are likely to die. It is very rare to get these conditions at just 24 weeks, as I did.
I was so sick, our baby would have to be delivered sooner rather than later. We were heartbroken: our baby, who we already knew was a boy, was far from ready to be born. It was terrifying.
The doctors told us we would need to be transferred to a specialist hospital. This would give us both the best-possible chance.
Two days later, I was transferred from my local district general in Bedford. The closest specialist hospital that had both a bed for me and a space in the neonatal unit for my unborn baby was St George’s Hospital in south London. It took two hours to get there by ambulance.
That night, Martin slept on a mattress on the floor in my room. We had hoped that my condition had stabilised enough for me to remain pregnant long enough for our baby to grow bigger and stronger. We didn’t know where Martin would stay during this time, or what would happen after our baby was born.
Sadly, the day after I arrived at St George’s – on the Thursday – my organs were on the brink of failure and my baby had to be delivered that morning. I was put under a general anaesthetic, and our Hugo was born by Caesarean section, weighing just 420 grams.
After Hugo was born, he was taken straight to the hospital’s fantastic neonatal intensive care unit, and I was taken to the adult intensive care ward to recover.
I remember Martin telling me that we had been given a room at the Tooting House, for as long as we needed it. Martin was able to start staying there straight away, and I could join him as soon as I was well enough to be discharged from hospital.
That moment was such a huge relief for both of us. We were a long way from home. Having the room in the Tooting House meant that we could both dedicate our time and energy to our son.
Martin and I spent many hours by Hugo’s side, and it was so reassuring to know that we weren’t far away if something happened when we weren’t there.
We really appreciated the kitchen, and having somewhere to prepare healthy meals. This was especially important for me because I was expressing my breast milk for Hugo.
The dining room also provided a place to chat to other parents, and we’ve become lifelong friends with a couple whose babies were in the unit at the same time as Hugo.
The staff were wonderful, and so supportive too. We can’t thank them enough.
Tragically, Hugo lost his fight for life at the age of 35 days. We’re utterly heartbroken.
We will always be grateful to Ronald McDonald House Tooting for giving us a place to stay when we were in need, which meant we were able to dedicate precious time to our much-wanted, much-loved son.
At Hugo’s funeral, we asked for donations to the Tooting House so that in future other families in need could be helped in his memory.