In April 2012, we were given the news that we were pregnant with our first child. And we were absolutely delighted.
We went through all the routine scans and everything was fine. So at 28 weeks, as a nice thing to do, we decided to arrange a 4D scan primarily to see our baby but also because we knew that the sonographer would look at our baby’s health at the same time.
What was supposed to be such a happy day was turned on its head in a matter of seconds. The sonographer saw that our baby’s stomach was not where it should have been. We were devastated. Numb.
We were rushed in to Chesterfield Royal Hospital to confirm the diagnosis. Our baby had a condition called congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). This meant that there was a hole in the diaphragm and that the major organs, such as the stomach and bowels had moved up in to the baby’s chest. This, we were told, would compromise lung function and our baby might not survive. In fact, there was just a 50% chance that our baby, to be called Oliver, would live.
We were referred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, had meetings with their specialists and planned our son’s arrival.
Oliver was born at Jessops Maternity Hospital in Sheffield on 18 December 2012 and although it was a joyous occasion, it was met with stress, anxiousness and worry as we didn’t know what was going to happen. Having no control over your son and not being able to help was the worst feeling. As parents, we are here to care for and protect our children. But we were helpless.
Once Oliver had been stabilised, we were transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital and on to the intensive care ward where at four days old, Oliver had lifesaving surgery to repair the hole in his diaphragm and pull the organs back to where they should have been.
The procedure went well and we knew we were one of the lucky ones as Oliver’s lungs had had the chance to develop before his organs made their way in to the chest cavity. This meant he was on the better end of the scale when it came to recovery.
When we first arrived on the intensive care ward, we had no idea about where we would stay. We would have gladly slept on chairs for as long as we needed to. We just needed to be near Oliver. After being told we needed to sleep, we reluctantly checked in to the nearest hotel, but being as worried as we were, we went straight back at the hospital at daybreak.
The next day we were introduced to The Sick Children’s Trust and were told that the charity had free accommodation on the top floor of the hospital for families whose children were being treated there. They kindly told us that we could have a room for as long as we needed. This was a big weight lifted off our shoulders, knowing that we were in the same building and only a few minutes away. We could go and have a shower and get a bit of sleep when needed. This made a terrifying time that little bit easier. We couldn’t believe that this accommodation existed and was purely dependent on charitable donations. Families need the ability to be close to their children. Some we met were living on the other side of the country.
We stayed in Treetop House for three weeks. Fortunately we were able to bring Oliver home sooner that even the doctors’ thought.
Sadly, after just one week of being home and settling into family life, things took a turn for the worst and Oliver was rushed back to hospital.
After taking him to Chesterfield Royal Hospital again, we were transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital and back in to intensive care.
The intensive care unit is a place we would never wish anyone to be with their children. And this was our second time in a few weeks.
Oliver had a blockage in his bowel which was a result of scar tissue from his original procedure and he was once again taken for lifesaving surgery.
Again, we had no thought other than being close to Oliver, but the nurse immediately told us we had been given priority at Treetop House. We would be given keys for the next available room, which luckily was the same night. We stayed again for three weeks before Oliver was well enough to come home.
Without the help of The Sick Children’s Trust we would have had to use hotels, and return home to gather our things which would have been an hour’s round trip each time. With the help of Treetop House, we were able to wash and iron clothes, able to cook food and use the wash facilities, all at no cost to ourselves.
The most important aspect was that we were within two minutes’ walk of the ward Oliver was on, meaning we were always close to him, even when we returned to the room for an hour to sleep. It was also a place we could take visitors when the nurses were changing shifts and we needed to leave for an hour.
I decided that we needed to help the places that saved our son’s life, and after first completing the Sheffield Half Marathon in aid of Sheffield Children’s Hospital, my thoughts turned to The Sick Children’s Trust. While we have donated to the charity in the past, I wanted to try and repay some of what it did for us by completing the Great North Run.
I started running in October 2016 and have enjoyed the thought of helping others by doing something I like to do.
The charity exists only on donations and is very important in keeping parents with their children in times of need.
Hopefully, you will never need to call upon this charity. But it is important to know that they are there should the worst happen.
I can’t thank The Sick Children’s Trust and Sheffield Children’s Hospital enough for everything they have done for me and my family. Oliver is now four years old and a big brother to William who is eight months.
If you’d like to help me support The Sick Children’s Trust, please visit my fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/adrian-mcguire1
Adrian McGuire, Oliver’s Dad.