“The House enabled us to be together as a family the night before surgery”

“The House enabled us to be together as a family the night before surgery”

In February 2017, Eve and Jason Fifield-Churchill’s son Alex turned one. However, unlike most babies his age, Alex would have to go through surgery and a hospital stay. During this difficult time, his family stayed at the Oxford House. Here, mum Eve tells their story.

A few weeks after my son Alex was born, I noticed that he had a slight point to his head, with a ridge at the top. We were advised a number of times that this was due to childbirth, however I knew it was something else. We were referred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital but on the day of our appointment, it became apparent that we were there for the wrong reason. Thankfully, our Doctor was able to get a colleague to come in and see Alex, who advised we be referred to the larger John Radcliffe Hospital.

After doctors measured and photographed Alex’s head and he had been through a CT scan, Alex was diagnosed with sagittal and metopic craniosynostosis. This meant some of the bones in his head had fused, which was affecting the way it was growing. We were told that Alex would need surgery between 12-15 months of age.

Hearing that our child would need surgery was very upsetting for both Jason and I. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have cried throughout his journey.

We were shocked to have his appointment come through as quickly as it did, it made it seem very real; it would actually be happening now. I always knew deep down he would need surgery but having the letter in my hand made it hit home for me. I cried every day that week. I had a fantastic support network around me and was able to talk about it, however no matter what anyone said, I was still so worried. My husband Jason was always in a bit of denial about Alex’s diagnosis and never thought he would need surgery. He almost blocked it out but it became very real for him on the day of Alex’s pre-op.

Me and Jason are lucky that we have a strong bond and we were able to talk about Alex and our worries. We knew that we were lucky Alex was young and wouldn’t remember the surgery and we had every faith in our doctor and the team.

Living an hour’s drive from the hospital, we were offered a room in the Oxford House where we stayed for a week. When we first came into the House we were nervous, knowing the operation was the following day, but the room itself and the facilities were very comforting. Being able to use a fully functioning kitchen to make breakfast in the morning meant our days got off to the best possible start and having the use of a private shower was fantastic, making us feel a bit more human after being on a ward all day long. The play room at the Oxford House is absolutely brilliant and the range of toys and books available is fantastic. It makes the stay more fun and a bit less daunting for your child.

Being able to stay in one of the rooms gave us some reassurance that if anything happened to Alex, both of us would be with him and one of us wouldn’t have to panic, trying to get back to the hospital. The House enabled us to be together as a family the night before surgery and throughout Alex’s hospital stay, as well as giving us the privacy to be on our own and cry. It meant we were able to go and have some quiet time to take it all in, process what had happened each day, and get some sleep.

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