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Meet the brave kids celebrating their first day at school after overcoming adversity

September 08, 2022

Three Sussex families are celebrating a very special milestone this week, as their little ones begin primary school, against the odds.

The parents of Arthur Bradbury, Tiger-Lily Sykes and Dulcie-Lou Beckley, all from Eastbourne, proudly waved off their smartly dressed four-year-olds into reception class, all of them having spent several weeks in hospital at the beginning of their lives.  

After two ‘threatened miscarriages’ at 26 weeks pregnant, Dulcie-Lou’s mum Katie was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. Dulcie-Lou arrived two weeks later, 12 weeks early and weighing just 805g.

Dulcie-Lou and mum Katie

During her five-and-a-half-week stay on the Trevor Mann Baby Unit (TMBU) at Royal Sussex County Hospital, Katie stayed just moments away from Dulcie-Lou at Ronald McDonald House Brighton.

Katie, a mum-of-two, said: “I couldn’t believe how amazing the place was. It had a lovely, warm atmosphere and everyone was so friendly.

“Not only did the House allow me to stay close to my tiny baby, but it also enabled me to bond with other mums, including Emma, who has become a lifelong friend. Emma and I are now celebrating our amazing premature babies starting school – a day we feared we might never see.”

Dulcie-Lou and her big brother Brinley

Emma gave birth to Arthur on 1 April 2018, nearly 12 weeks early. Weighing just 2lbs, Arthur stayed on TMBU for six weeks. Meanwhile, Emma and her family were accommodated at the Brighton House, something for which she is “eternally grateful”.

Mum Emma and baby Arthur

Emma said: “Staying in the House meant that I didn’t have to go home without Arthur, which is something I really didn’t want to do. It also meant that our older son Harry could stay with us, and he’d play with Katie’s son, Brinley. The family room we had was plenty big enough for the three of us and there was the lounge with lots of toys, which the boys loved.”

Arthur starts school with his peers, having smashed his milestones and defied all the odds.

Arthur starting school

Emma added: “This is a huge moment. He’s so excited and looks so grown-up in his uniform! A strange coincidence is that there’s a little girl in Arthur’s class, Tiger-Lily, whose family also stayed at the Ronald McDonald House around the same time as us. It’s so nice that after having such challenging starts in life, our little ones are thriving. They’ve come so far.”

A few weeks after she was born, Tiger-Lily was discovered to have congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS), a rare condition affecting the autonomic nervous system that manages breathing. At six weeks old, she had a tracheostomy fitted and spent the first few months of her life in hospital.

Mum Vicky and Tiger-Lily

Vicky said: “Staying at the Ronald McDonald House Brighton, meant I could stay with Tiger-Lily every day. When we first stepped into the House, we felt such warmth and kindness; the staff made us feel like part of the family.”

Tiger-Lily was transferred to the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, where Vicky was given nearby accommodation at the Ronald McDonald House Evelina London.

Vicky said: “Our home is 82 miles from the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, so it would have been impossible to visit daily. It was such a blessing being able to stay close.

“I know she’s going to thrive at school, as she’s done so well at everything else. There’s nothing she doesn’t do; I take her horse-riding, to festivals, and she loves playing with friends. It’s lovely that Arthur is in the same class, as the two of them had similarly difficult starts in life. Just look at them now!”

Tiger-Lily is starting school

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