"We will always be truly grateful for the kindness we were shown"
Gemma Kennaugh (Mum)
We’re the Kennaugh family from the Isle of Man. Our little girl Kitty was born more than 3 months early here at Arrowe Park Hospital.
Back in April, we had less than 24 hours’ notice that she was coming. I rang my local hospital from my desk at work on 27 April with abdominal pains and they told me to go straight in for a check-up. An hour later I was flown to Arrowe Park Hospital by air ambulance and I haven’t been back home since. That was almost 3 months ago!
In the days following her arrival, we didn’t know if Kitty would survive or not. She was on life support in the neonatal unit, while I was on the maternity ward, my husband was in the doctor’s accommodation on the other side of the hospital, and my parents and sisters were in a hotel 20 minutes away. At what I can only describe as the lowest point in my life, my family was, geographically speaking, fragmented.
I was too numb to even start to think about practicalities like where we were going to sleep. All I could think about were the serious medical problems our little girl was trying to overcome; brain bleeds, collapsed lungs, meningitis, an open duct in her heart, chronic lung disease…. The list went on. Fortunately for us, a room became available at the Ronald McDonald House just as I was discharged from the maternity ward.
As days and weeks went by, Kitty became more stable. Residing a floor above my sick baby took a lot of the fear and anxiety out of leaving her to eat and sleep. There is simply no way to describe how awful being separated from your newborn is. Sometimes even being a floor above isn’t enough, but I honestly can’t even contemplate what we would have done without this House.
My husband James had to return to the Isle of Man after a month for work. My family flew back and forth to be with me when he was away. They had already incurred so much expense in flights and hotels in those first weeks that it was a relief to be able to offer them a room here with no more financial pressure on them.
Additionally, being surrounded by other mums and dads who are going through the same dreadful time that we were really helped. Being able to share information and experiences in a non-medical environment was really important. Sometimes we would cry over a coffee at breakfast time, worried sick about our babies, other times we would be sterilizing bottles at midnight and chatting about something silly that had happened on the ward. This collection of memories shared with other parents has made neonatal intensive care bearable.
The staff of consultants, doctors and nurses downstairs do so much to help get the parents through this awful time. Also, working alongside Ronald McDonald House, the kitchen is often a hub for support groups like Neo Mates and breastfeeding groups. Two weeks into my stay here, I walked into a Neo Mates get-together and it was the first time I felt a glimmer of hope that I might actually get to take my baby home at the end of all of this.
Months have passed and I’m now looking forward to coming back here when Kitty is bigger to join in with these reunions. I’ve made friends here in the House that I hope to stay in touch with throughout life, as nobody else will ever be able to understand what we’ve gone through just to get our babies home.
It’s too hard to summarise what Ronald McDonald House and Arrowe Park Neonatal unit has meant to us. There are no words to describe it and no financial values to reconcile it. It’s been our home for 12 weeks. We will always be truly grateful for the kindness we were shown here. Sincerest of thanks to everyone involved not only in Kitty’s care, but in the well-being of the parents too.
We owe you everything!
Gemma, James & Kitty Kennaugh.