"The staff are true heroes" - Harriett's story

When Harriett's baby was born 12 weeks early she didn't know what to expect. Here she talks about the amazing support and care the staff gave her and her baby, and what they learned from their time in neonatal care.

With a full head of hair, our little boy made his way into the world 12 weeks earlier than expected. After waking up with stomach cramps in the early hours of the morning, I had no idea that I would be meeting my son so soon. I was in early labour and 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital, Stanley William was with us; weighing a tiny 3lb.

At first we were in total shock and wondered why this had happened to us. Stanley was transferred to the neonatal unit where the amazing staff set about stabilising him. Our wonderful midwife took the first photo of my son and brought it back for us to look at. 

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Over the first few weeks of Stanley’s life we got used to the beeps of the machines and learnt about how each one of them was helping our son. We were so impressed with how the nurses and consultants worked tirelessly to provide him with the best possible care and chances. The nurses also supported us too – providing shoulders to cry on and a place to rest whenever things weren’t looking good. 

The nurses really took the time to get to know Stanley. They managed to spot a potential longline infection when he was 11 days old and ventilated him in time when he stopped breathing at three weeks old. The nurses said that Stanley had a massive personality right from the start. He liked nothing more than setting off his alarm just as one of them was leaving a room to remind everyone that he was there.

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We experienced some good days on the unit but many that were utter hell. Though every second felt like a minute, every hour like a day, we learnt so much whilst on the unit. We learnt not to take anything for granted, to appreciate every breath, not to fuss and fight about things that don’t matter and most importantly to tell those we value most how much we love them.

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After 53 days on the unit, we were finally able to take our miracle home. On the ninth day after his discharge, Stanley stopped breathing in my arms. Luckily for us we were at Broomfield Hospital for a check-up. I managed to sound the alarm and start CPR – which I’d been taught before leaving the NICU – before the doctors and crash team arrived to resuscitate him. Eventually he was stabilised and put on a ventilator.

The following morning, Stanley was transferred to Addensbrooke’s PICU for more specialist care. Both my husband and I were put up in hospital accommodation by The Sick Children’s Trust.

Addensbrooke confirmed that Stanley had Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) which caused an infection in his lungs and breathing passage. The doctors also found that he had a blood clot in his leg after they tried to place a central line. To say our world fell apart was an understatement. 

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After putting up a tremendous fight, Stanley came home on his due date. We still had to inject him with Dalteparin to help thin his blood clot but we were given the all clear a few weeks later.

Stanley still has a long road to full recovery and a number of operations at Great Ormond Street Hospital for a hernia and hypospadias. No matter what he faces, he is always smiling. I am the luckiest mother in the world to have such a happy-go-lucky son.

I am still trying to come to terms with what we have gone through – especially when I relive the moment when Stanley stopped breathing in my arms – and I do cry a lot. I am so lucky that he survived that horrible moment and I know things could have been much worse for us. I can never thank the nursing staff at the Broomfield Neonatal Unit and the Phoenix Ward enough for all they did for Stanley during his hospital stays. The staff are true heroes and I know that I speak for all parents of sick children when I say we can never thank them enough for being there for us in our darkest hours.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, you can call our helpline on 0808 801 0322 or view our online support pages

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