One Family, Two Houses
Karen and Craig were happily expecting their first child when Karen noticed that their baby seemed to have stopped moving at around 27 weeks. After a scan at the family’s local hospital, it was discovered that the baby had a large tumour in his abdomen. Mum and baby were then seen by the medical and surgical teams at Southampton’s Princess Anne hospital where it was found that he was severely anaemic and suffering from a build up of fluid in his skin. Though the Southampton team attempted to rectify the anaemia, this did not go as well as hoped and baby Ezra was born 2 days later by C-section, at just 27 weeks.
As the family lived over an hour and a half away from the hospital, they were given a room on the fourth floor of the Ronald McDonald House Southampton. Both Karen and Craig were immensely grateful to only be a 10 minute walk from the neonatal unit and to have time away from the ward to recoup their energy levels. This was to be their home from home for the next eight weeks.
Due to the size of the tumour pressing on his lungs, Ezra suffered from breathing problems. During surgery to remove it, doctors found that the tumour was attached to his liver and as a result, only excess fluid could be drained. Thankfully though, this improved his breathing significantly which mum Karen felt probably saved Ezra’s life. During the weeks that followed, little Ezra battled with prematurity and infection before finally reaching full term, when his second surgery to remove the tumour could finally take place.
Karen and Craig found meeting other families in the House really important. Brought together by House events such as Waffle Wednesday and Father's Day, they shared the experience of having a child in hospital, which helped them to build positive and valuable relationships. The excellent quality of the accommodation and the option for friends to visit and extended family members to stay over made a great difference too, but it was the relationships with other families at the House that really mattered.
After 10 weeks, little Ezra was deemed well enough to make the transfer to Kings College Hospital in London, to tackle the growth on his liver with a second round of surgery. With this came the move from the Southampton House to the Camberwell House. Although providing the same support, the family found the design of the two houses quite different. Transferring from a 60 roomed house, divided into four separate floors, each with its own kitchen and communal rooms, to a 24 roomed house with communal rooms shared by everyone, was a marked change but one that worked well.
Surgery for Ezra went very well and he started to improve almost immediately. He was gradually taken off the painkillers and other drugs that had been keeping his heart from failing. After a total of 30 days at Kings, Ezra recovered sufficiently to return to the Princess Anne to continue his recovery and Karen and Craig re-joined the Southampton House, reconnecting with friends they’d made previously.
Ezra continued to recover and finally it was time to move on again, this time to the family’s local hospital, for an additional week. After almost four months, Ezra came home, on oxygen but without his feeding tube. Life started to get back to normal, or as normal as life can be with a small baby! The couple could finally be real hands-on parents for their baby, who for most of his life had been in an incubator or a cot, been sedated or on morphine, with little opportunity to have cuddles, be pushed around in a buggy or carried anywhere.
Both Karen and Craig are immensely thankful that Ronald McDonald House Charities could be there for them at such a hard time in their lives. The Charity saved them from being far away from their first born during his challenging battles and of course from having to spend a huge amount of money on accommodation.