When we found out I was pregnant with Olivia we were over the moon. But as expected, I had an extremely complicated pregnancy. I’d already had two premature babies and tragically, two still births. I have a weak cervix and hyperhomocysteinemia - a blood condition which means there is an abnormally high level of amino acid in my blood and I was led to believe my blood was too thick for my body. I was told that there was only a 0.07% chance I’d ever have another baby.
I knew that up until 24 weeks my baby would develop and grow, but then my blood thickens and there isn’t enough oxygen in my blood. Every pregnancy has had its complications. There was also the chance I could die, and the baby could die too. It was a big risk. It wasn’t a decision that Adrian and I took lightly.
Our miracle baby, Olivia, was born on 2 February 2017 at 25 weeks and two days, weighing 1lb 15oz and was delivered by emergency caesarean. She was beautiful. Our local hospital in Scunthorpe couldn’t support her needs so she was born in the Jessop Wing at Sheffield Teaching Hospital where she stayed for the first 12 weeks of her life.
They were a terrifying 12 weeks. The panic and anxiety I’d felt when both Hannah and Millie were born prematurely returned, and once again, I feared for my baby’s life. She was so sick, required ventilation and was being fed through a gastric tube. Her belly would blow up and they thought she might have necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious illness in which tissues in the intestine become inflamed and start to die.
She also had a collapsed lung and wasn’t getting all the benefits from her ventilation tube. I was told she had just a 25% chance of surviving. She’d had a below 1% chance of even being conceived, and now she was here, she had such a slim chance of surviving. When you’re told something like that you don’t know what to think. My baby, who was already a miracle, now faced further difficulties and complications that meant she may die. I have never been so petrified in my entire life. All I could do was desperately hope that she would pull through.
Doctors told me Olivia would need a stoma to separate the healthy part and the damaged part of her intestine and we needed to be transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital which is a 120 mile round trip from our home. When we were told we were going to be transferred, I began to panic. Where would we stay? How would we be able to spend as much time with Olivia as we needed to? How would we be able to stay together as a family?
But my worries, panic and fear didn’t last long. When we arrived at the hospital we were told about Magnolia House and The Sick Children’s Trust, a charity which provides ‘Home from Home’ accommodation for families when their sick child is in hospital. I’d never heard of the charity before and I didn’t know what to expect, but when I walked into Magnolia House I was absolutely astonished. It was like a home. It was a comfortable place that would allow us to be close to Olivia while she was receiving treatment and to stay together as a family.
The facilities at Magnolia House amazed me. Having somewhere to cook a healthy meal, which allowed us to look after ourselves so we could be there for Olivia, was without question, an incredible relief. Being able to take ourselves away from the ward when it all got too much helped me keep my sanity and to be strong for my baby. I truly believe that being able to stay so close to Olivia helped her with her recovery and Magnolia House enabled me to be next to her throughout it all.
I was also able to talk to other parents which helped me to cope. They acted as a distraction so I didn’t feel continuously worried and anxious about Olivia all the time. It was a true comfort to be able to talk to families who were going through a similar situation and to be listened to.
Then there was the house team, who were fantastic. They provided me with the emotional support I needed at a time when everything felt like it was falling apart around me. They listened to me when I needed a shoulder to cry on and left me when I needed space. It was as if they knew the right thing to do at exactly the right time.
Magnolia House enabled us to stay together as a family. Adrian would stay at weekends with Hannah and Millie and it was wonderful to be able to just be a family. It was so important to me to have all my family together and for my girls to start bonding with their new sister and Magnolia House enabled that to happen.
After eight weeks at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Olivia was discharged. She’d had her stoma closed and after this, she thrived. It felt odd to leave Magnolia House; the place that had become our ‘Home from Home’ for such a long time. But it was an absolutely amazing feeling to finally take our miracle baby home.
Olivia still needs oxygen and has continued hospital appointments, but she is doing so well. And I genuinely believe that because Magnolia House was there for us, we could be there for Olivia, and that’s why she recovered so quickly. Without Magnolia House, we wouldn’t have been able to do it and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.
Vicki Herron, Olivia’s Mum