As first time parents, we couldn’t wait for the arrival of our baby. Everything was fine during my pregnancy until I went into labour. When we arrived at the hospital, the nurses examined me and it was discovered that our daughter’s first bowel movement had occurred in the womb, otherwise known as meconium. Despite this, the birth of our daughter went smoothly and everything seemed fine and normal.
However, as a precaution they kept us in overnight because there was a possibility that she could have inhaled some of the meconium whilst in the womb. Thankfully they did because the following day Ella brought up some green mucus! At this stage it wasn’t clear if this was an infection caused by the meconium or something more sinister which would require surgery on her tiny, little body.
After some initial X-Rays, it was evident there was a blockage in her bowel and she was immediately transferred to the Sheffield Children’s Hospital by ambulance. I was in such a panic that Alex decided to stay with me as I had not been discharged, but this meant our little girl had to make the scary journey alone.
Once I had been discharged, we made our way to Sheffield Children’s Hospital. When we arrived, I was hysterical. I was still in pain from the birth and we couldn’t find our beautiful daughter. We wondered aimlessly around the hospital looking for our little girl and eventually found her on the Neonatal Surgical Unit (NSU).
A nurse met us and tried to calm us down, but I was finding it hard to stay relaxed when our Ella was so poorly, less than 48 hours after being born. By the time we got there, they had already done a more in depth X-Ray to decipher what the blockage was and thankfully she wouldn’t need an operation as it was an infection (and not a blockage as we first thought). I can’t even begin to describe the sense of relief, but there was still a big part of me which was hurting – it was horrific to see our daughter covered in all of those wires.
We hadn’t even heard of Magnolia House before that night and thought we would have to go home. This sent me into an even bigger whirlwind of panic as I couldn’t bare to be separated from her. The nurse told us that we didn’t have to worry as there was a room for us at Magnolia House, a ‘Home from Home’ run by The Sick Children’s Trust. I was so thankful to hear this as it meant we could stay close to Ella while she recovered. It’s amazing when you think of the huge amount of comfort we felt in that moment – just thinking about it now chokes me up because we are so grateful to The Sick Children’s Trust for supporting us at a time when it felt like our world was falling apart.
Having Magnolia House was a real blessing. We were just a few minutes’ walk from Ella’s bedside which meant we could see her anytime day or night, knowing we had the comfort of a ‘Home from Home’ to go back to. I don’t know what I would have done if we had needed to go back home. I was already in a hysterical mess and if I had had to be away from her, it would have been even more difficult. Staying at the house meant we were able to bond with our little girl in those crucial first few days. I was able to breastfeed and we could be there with her day and night, knowing we could go back to the house and have a shower, or get some much needed rest after a long day on the ward. All of this was made possible because of Magnolia House.
Ella’s grandparents and auntie and uncle were able to come and visit – they would bring us food and we would all cook together in the kitchen. It was so nice to have a space where we could socialise with our family, away from the wires and beeping machines of the hospital ward, but all the while knowing we were just minutes away from Ella if she needed us.
We met some lovely families during our stay and I am still in touch with one mum now. Her baby was rushed into NSU at the same time as Ella and we got talking one evening when we were expressing milk – not the conventional way of making a friend I suppose but it brought a huge amount of comfort to know we weren’t alone and had other people to share our experiences with.
Having the comfort of Magnolia House meant that we didn’t have to worry about getting to and from the hospital. Even the everyday things, such as making sure there’s enough toilet roll in the bathroom, was taken care of. This meant we could focus 100% of our time and energy on helping our little girl recover, which Alex and I are both so grateful for.
Just five days after being transferred, we were allowed to take our baby home. It was the best news when the nurses said the antibiotics had cured the infection. I remember when Alex and I were packing up our belongings in Magnolia House and we just stood in the kitchen and cried. We were overwhelmed by the support of The Sick Children’s Trust when everything else was falling down around us and I honestly don’t think we could have got through this time without them.
Ella is now doing really well and we are delighted to be back home as a family. I love being a mum and Ella is the most beautiful daughter, inside and out. We will be eternally grateful for the support of The Sick Children’s Trust who came into our lives at a time when we needed them the most.
Sarah Gavigan, Mum to Ella