Fighting our way through COVID-19 - Bobby and Rosie’s Story

Bobby and Rosie describe how COVID-19 has made their neonatal journey even more challenging than they expected, keeping them from their baby for a whole fortnight.

Our little boy Fletcher very clearly wanted to make a dramatic entrance to the world. Rosie was 23 weeks pregnant when labour started and, at 24+4 weeks, after 105 hours of active labour, Fletcher arrived, weighing 1.5lb.

It was the most anxious moment of our lives when he was born: we didn’t hear a sound from him. We were desperate to know whether our little boy was going to be okay, and luckily, we saw one nurse smile, which gave us the confidence that he was alright.

He was resuscitated at birth and put on the ventilator straight away. Then he was rushed off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Royal Stoke without us getting to have a hold or a cuddle.

When we first started our neonatal journey, we were quite naive about what we would all go through; we just thought that our tiny baby needed to grow. As it has happens, our little miracle has battled infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, E-Coli and NEC. He has had a grade 2 brain haemorrhage and half a collapsed lung since he was born, and both his lungs have been on the verge of collapsing. He has chronic lung disease, a stage 2 ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity) and an open duct in his heart. And in the 101 days since he was born, he has had 18 blood transfusions.

Fletcher was dependent on a ventilator for 57 days, with two failed attempts of getting him off the vent, each time more harrowing than the one before. He had to have steroids in order to improve his lungs so he could come off the ventilator. Fletcher then progressed to requiring the next stages of breathing support: Duopap, CPAP, high flow. Eventually we were delighted when our little Fletcher finally managed to get onto low flow which gave us hope that home was in sight.

We have had so many scary moments, and so many immensely proud ones too. We are amazed at how hard Fletcher has fought, how strong he is to overcome and battle so much.

It’s been incredibly hard, and we cannot thank all the members of staff at Royal Stoke Neonatal Unit enough, as they have saved our boy’s life multiple times.

With COVID-19, we have the added worry now of Fletcher being so vulnerable, both when he is inside the neonatal unit and when, eventually, we are able to bring our little boy home. We have been trying to gain as much information as possible in order to protect our little boy, and we’ve found the Bliss website to be really helpful as it has condensed down the Government guidelines and included what applies to our little neonatal babies.

There have been restrictions put in place at the neonatal unit, which we appreciate is to protect the babies. However, it was devastating that after 84 days of being a family unit and supporting each other through an immensely difficult journey, the visiting rules changed for parents and became a lot more strict.

It was a few days after the unit decided that only parents, no other family members or friends, could enter the unit that I developed symptoms of COVID-19. That meant that we both faced 14 days of isolation and 14 long days without seeing our little boy. We were distraught.

On the same day that I developed symptoms, Fletcher had started to struggle breathing on his low flow, and required more oxygen support and so was put back on to CPAP. He was taken into the isolation room inside the NICU, was tested for COVID-19 and had an infection screening.

We had a 24-hour wait until the screening came back negative. The anxiety of that wait, the panic every time the phone rang, and the immense guilt at not being able to be with him whilst he was struggling was all horrific. Luckily, after a few days of antibiotics and a blood transfusion, he made a quick recovery.

A week later, he had a similar set-back when he was struggling with his breathing and was once again taken back to isolation, tested for COVID-19 and screened for infections. Thankfully, everything came back clear, and Fletcher is now back on low flow oxygen, back in a cot and having full bottle feeds again, thanks to all the staff that have been looking after him in our absence.

COVID-19 has hit us all, every single family in the neonatal unit, like a ton of bricks on top of the already turbulent journey of having a baby born poorly or premature. It’s scary knowing that if people don’t follow the Government guidelines and, if we don’t all come together in order to protect the most vulnerable in society, we could lose our baby boy to this virus, after he has fought and battled through life already.

But we have been incredibly lucky to be at Royal Stoke Neonatal Unit, with the fantastic nurses, doctors, and consultants who all help to save our babies’ lives. They not only take care of their medical needs but also help with the difficulty of being separated by sending pictures, messages and videos via V-Create. It has been such a relief to see our son’s beautiful face every single day whilst we haven’t been there. They have constantly kept us up-to-date with his care and any plans of next steps. We would have been lost in complete devastation without this.

Emergency COVID-19 Appeal

At this particularly anxious time, parents have less access to their babies and far less support than usual. Help us to provide a one-to-one support service to help families through this difficult time.
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