A secure and safe place to reflect
Guest blogger: Peta Clayton
Our eldest son Tommy arrived very unexpectedly and very early. He was born by emergency C-section on Monday 13 March 2006 at General Hospital in Jersey (where we live) because I had developed pre-eclampsia (a high blood pressure and other symptom disease of which no-one knows the cause). He only weighed 2lbs 8oz.
I had just been on a routine visit to the ante-natal clinic at the hospital on 9 March (in my lunch hour!) when they whisked me up to the maternity ward for overnight monitoring - the only symptom I had was swollen ankles and every pregnant woman gets them! They had thought at first that they would have to deliver our baby that night as my blood pressure was doing "silly things" and my hands, face etc. were also swollen. But luckily I did stabilise and they had time to give me two steroid injections to help the baby mature its lungs quickly.
By Sunday night/Monday morning they were concentrating on monitoring the baby more than me, but decided that he wasn't thriving inside any longer and went for the emergency operation under general anaesthetic first thing on Monday 13 March.
Tommy was rushed to the Special Care Baby Unit inside the hospital and kept on a ventilator until the Tuesday afternoon, when the doctors said it would be better if they could transfer him to St Thomas' Hospital in London and their Neonatal Intensive Care Ward in case of any complications, as they are limited in what they can do due to local resources in Jersey. I only really managed to sit and spend time with Tommy in his incubator for a couple of hours before he went off with a doctor and nurse on his first big adventure: a small aeroplane ride to London City airport. I told him to be good!
Tim and my dad flew over to London as soon as they could and they were both able to spend lots of time with Tommy. He was on a ventilator/oscillator until his lungs fully matured, he had a lung infection and a few other things related to premature babies – after all he was only 31 weeks when he arrived (9 weeks early!) and he had lots of growing to do.
I had to get better too. They needed me to have 'normal' blood pressure for a decent length of time before they'd let me leave hospital, and fly to London. I left hospital a week after Tommy had been born and had to arrange to travel with a friend as my chaperone because I couldn't lift a case or anything after the C-section op for 6 weeks. I was really looking forward to seeing our little boy – I had only had one photo to talk to/stare at for over a week!
My job initially was as a "milk machine" - expressing every four hours and freezing it! Tim took over frozen bottles that I'd filled in the hospital and they gave them to Tommy before I was able to arrive. It was important to try and boost his immune system and help him grow too.
Not knowing how long we'd need to be in London, we were so grateful to be able to stay at Ronald McDonald House Guy’s and St Thomas’. When staying at the Ronald McDonald House the facilities available were extremely useful to us. Having only had a day or so to organise and pack for an indefinite stay out of the Island, we found the House had everything we needed all under one roof.
The kitchen/dining room helped to keep our living costs down and had a community feel where we were able to chat to other guests. The Laundry was really useful as we were only able to bring a few clothes with us.
Having our own safe and secure room meant we felt there was somewhere to spend quiet time talking and reflecting on what was happening and what we needed to prepare ourselves for next.
The telephone in the room was also fantastic as we could link through to the hospital ward at St Thomas' in the late evening to check on progress at a time when we couldn't always be there at cotside.
Even the Kid's play room seemed a brilliant idea and there was good availability of car parking for those who needed it.
Most of all, it is a really professionally-run house so people behave well and it is a safe, clean, friendly home from home.
After 3 weeks in London, Tommy was doing well and we were given the green light to travel back by air ambulance to Jersey and the SCBU ward here. The unit here looked after Tommy for many more weeks, with us both by his side and finally at three months old we left the hospital and brought our baby home!
Tommy continued to be supported and checked regularly within our local healthcare system and has flourished since.
When Tim and I decided to try for a brother or sister for Tommy in 2009 we found that I had an auto-immune disorder . A course of self-administered Clexane (blood-thinner) injections was prescribed and a baby brother, Alex, was born in March 2010 – with a normal birth weight (7lbs) and no complications.
Tommy and Alex are great friends and brothers, now aged 10 and six years old.
We had always promised Tommy a trip back to London when he reached 10 years old and a visit to St Thomas’ Hospital where Tommy received all his vital life-saving help and care, and as parents we were helped and supported so much. So in March 2016, over the weekend of Tommy’s 10th birthday we took a few days to visit London and see the sights but most importantly to visit House Manager Sue and everyone at “our home away from home” Ronald McDonald House and the wonderful staff at St Thomas’ Hospital.
We are so grateful to everyone in Jersey and London for their kindness and professionalism. Without the support of both hospitals Tommy would certainly not be here. Without the Ronald McDonald House, we, as worried parents, would have found it so much harder to deal with everything.