An hour passed before the doctor returned to update us, by this time we were convinced that something serious had happened. She told us they had tried various treatments, which had failed and had to resort to putting her on a ventilator with 100% oxygen. At this point they couldn’t tell us what was wrong, but they were running various tests and would let us know when we could visit.
Four hours later, the midwife on the ward came to let us know we could go to see her. She brought me a wheelchair and escorted us to Intensive Care.
We arrived at the Neonatal Unit to see 13 incubators surrounding the room, each containing a tiny baby, some as young as 23 weeks old. They escorted us over to her bay, where she lay motionless, covered in wires, surrounded by beeping machines and the loud whooshing and hissing of her life support. We were met by the sister of the ward who explained what each machine was for and gave me two muslin bunnies. One for me to keep and one for Wren so that she would have my scent near her. I placed one next to her face and carefully stroked her soft cheeks. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. She was just so small and helpless. Nothing can prepare you for seeing your baby like that. There are just no words to describe how that feels.
We returned a few times that night. I was determined to walk there no matter how painful. I tried to get some rest but just could not sleep. It was like a bad dream. Déjà vu. I found my arms empty repeating to myself “Please keep breathing”. I kept praying over and over for a miracle.
The next morning, as soon as I had breakfast and my first round of medication, we made our way back up to Intensive Care, where we were greeted by the consultant in charge. She told us that they suspected an infection and had started treatment with two types of antibiotics along with morphine and an induced coma to make her more comfortable.
The next few days were touch and go. She started to make progress with her oxygen levels only to find they suspected sepsis in one of the lines connected to her belly button. Her infection markers had started to increase again, so they had to administer a 3rddose of antibiotics. She started to turn very yellow and showed a lot of signs of Jaundice but somehow was under the requirements for treatment
I was so desperate to breast feed her because I knew it would help and give her the best chance possible. So, from the first night I sat on my bed with a syringe and collected as much colostrum as I could. I set an alarm every 3 hours and repeated this for 2 days until I started expressing with the hospital machines to establish a milk supply.
After a week in intensive care, Wren had made amazing progress and was taken off the ventilator and put onto high flow oxygen through her nose. She was woken up and we were finally able to carry out our parental duties. We would change her nappies, feed her through a tube with my expressed milk. We were now allowed to take her out for cuddles, which I was so desperate for as I hadn’t really held her properly since she was born.
Three days later I was able to start breast feeding her, which amazingly she took to straight away. She was moved into high dependency where she was monitored for a further 4 days. Then continued to test her blood as her skin was still yellow in colour, but she still did not meet the requirements for treatment. Her poor little feet were covered in scabs from her daily blood tests.
Eventually Wren was allowed in our room, which was part of her treatment to normalise her care and routine with us. She stayed with us for 2 days before we were told we could FINALLY go home. All that needed to happen was for her blood results to be clear and she would need to be weighed to ensure she was continuing to gain weight. The end was in sight! I had left the hospital twice this whole time and felt like I was going slightly insane staring at the same 4 walls.
We packed our bags ready to go and Gavin did a quick trip home to get rid of some of the things we had accumulated after living in hospital for 2 weeks. We wheeled Wren’s cot back into high dependency where she was to be weighed and have her blood taken. I undressed her and lay her down on the scales…we waited for the numbers to flash up on the screen…she had LOST weight?! I was devastated. I started to get upset and felt like I was completely failing her. We were reassured by the nurse and told that she might need to stay in a few more days to ensure she was still gaining weight.
A few hours later the consultant returned to tell us we weren’t allowed to come home. Her blood results had come back and her platelet levels had shot up, meaning she was at risk of a stroke, heart attack or a blood clot. We felt like we were back to square one! The normal limit for platelets was 450 and hers was 1170. Suddenly the end, which was almost in reach now felt like a million miles away. I truly felt like I would never be able to bring any of my children home. I was just so desperate for normality and it felt like we were never going to get there.
After taking more blood and another night in the hospital, Wren’s platelet levels had decreased to 950 and we were FINALLY allowed to return home (we just had to keep a close eye on her and ensure she didn’t become dehydrated). We couldn’t wait. I got to bring my baby home! We loaded up the car, said our goodbyes to the staff and made our way home. We could not get out of there fast enough. It’s simply impossible to imagine how overwhelmingly happy and excited we were. It was the best day ever. We could now start our journey of parenthood. We could finally fulfil those dreams we thought would never come true.
It wasn’t until we got home and read through her discharge letter that we saw the full extent of what she had been through. Her full diagnosis was, Congenital Pneumonia, Tachypnoea (abnormally rapid breathing), Sepsis, Jaundice, Thrombocytosis (excessive number of platelets), Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the newborn (read more here) and signs of respiratory distress. During her stay, she was given over 13 different medications.
For the next 3 weeks, we had to attend the clinic to ensure her platelet levels had returned to normal. She continued to be weighed and was regularly gaining weight. At 8 weeks, she had a follow up appointment as part of a 2-year routine check-up plan; they were thrilled by her development.
We do not know whether anything that she has been through has had a long-term impact on her, but we are taking each day at a time and treasuring every moment with our precious girl.
I honestly do not know what we would have done without all the wonderful staff at Stoke Hospital. They promptly recognised the problem, assisted in her care and supported Gavin and I throughout her time in the hospital. We owe you our lives. You have given us hope for the future, brought our biggest dream to life and shone a light in the darkness that filled our lives. Thank you.