“It really did feel like we were one big family”
Sophie and Tommy stayed at our Camberwell House while their baby Olivia was in hospital. Here Sophie tells their story and reflects on how the House helped them through a very difficult time.
Guest blogger: Sophie Tutt
On my 26th birthday I found out that I was pregnant. It was a planned pregnancy but I will never forget the emotions and joy that overcame us when we saw the positive pregnancy test! We already had our wedding booked but kept it a secret from most of our family and friends until Tommy announced it in his speech at our wedding!
Apart from the usual symptoms - sickness, insomnia and a problem with my pelvis causing swelling - the pregnancy was going ok! Tommy first felt the baby kick on our honeymoon when I was 20 weeks pregnant. I loved feeling our little one kick and move around inside me.
However at 28 weeks, I became worried because I was not feeling my baby move much. Monitoring and a scan at our local hospital showed there was a problem with baby’s bowels. At this point we didn't know the extent of the problem, so were referred to the Medway Foetal Medicine Unit two days later.
Fast forward some weeks and numerous scans and tests later, and we were finally told that the baby had a blockage or narrowing in the small intestine. We were told I would need to deliver at King’s College Hospital and that the baby may need surgery. All kind of thoughts ran through my head at that time. I remember thinking that King’s College was about a two hour commute from our home and perhaps selfishly thinking how far away that was, and that the pregnancy and delivery wasn't supposed to happen like this. We were given a tour of the neonatal unit where our baby would go after birth, so we knew what to expect when our time came, which helped.
Olivia was born on 10 September at 38 weeks, by emergency caesarean section. After a five minute cuddle she was taken to the intensive care unit and had a massive 300 ml of fluid drained from her tummy. Further scans and tests confirmed a blockage in her small intestine so on 12 September, when our baby was less than 48 hours old, she was taken down to surgery have the blockage removed.
Walking down to theatre with our tiny baby in an incubator and saying goodbye to her was the most harrowing experience, filled with all kinds of thoughts running through our heads. We didn't know what we were going to see in eight hours’ time when we were back to the ward but luckily the surgery went well – we had a few hidden surprises along the way, but it was successful.
Olivia was now on morphine and a ventilator. Our beautiful girl didn't look like herself - she looked incredibly poorly.
On the day Olivia had her surgery, we received a call informing us that a bedroom had become available at Ronald McDonald House Camberwell. We had been given a heads up about the fantastic House a few weeks before Olivia was born, but previous to this we had no idea that the Charity even existed. Because of my caesarean surgery, I was kept as an inpatient for a few days but getting the room at Camberwell House meant that Tommy could get a decent night’s sleep and have a hot meal in the evening. When I joined him later in the week, I was amazed by the facilities and the warmth of the House.
Everyone was so friendly there and it really did feel like we were one big family. Even the name of our room at the house, which was Maud, was amazing for us. It was my late nana’s name and made us really believe that she was looking out for us. My nana’s middle name was Olive and was the reason why we named our daughter Olivia.
At first, while Olivia recovered from surgery she couldn’t have any milk but after nine days she finally had her first 3 ml of expressed breast milk! This was the most amazing feeling, we had fulfilled such a basic need for her. We still had good days and bad days with her but knowing we could just cross the road and walk five minutes to a cosy house with a comfy bed and cooking facilities made those bad days a little more manageable.
The staff at the house are amazing - they remembered us and our child, and always asked how things were going. They weren’t fazed at all when I would walk in the front door and break down in tears because it had been a difficult day. They were there when I needed help with the giant washing machines, mislaid my key fob or when we would get food and parcels delivered. Nothing was too much trouble for them. Frequently my mum or mother in law would stay the night and the House provided us with a guest bed, duvet and spare towels.
We stayed a total of 17 nights at the house. Between myself and Olivia we were in hospital for 20 days. I just can't imagine what it would have been like if we had had to commute every day from home to hospital. Not just how physically draining it would have been but what the financial impact would have been too. We can't believe how lucky we were to have been given a room at the House. Although, it had all been such a hard and sad time, I can look back and know we did have some happy times there too.
Luckily Olivia will never remember what she went through: she resembled a pin cushion and had numerous tubes and wires attached to her. I'm so proud of how brave she was and hope one day she can join her mummy and daddy in raising awareness for this wonderful charity.
Thank you to the team at Camberwell for being so amazing.