When the unexpected happens, families can have their world turned upside down and when your baby requires specialist care at a hospital miles away, they journey into the unknown. When parents Matthew and Kayley discovered Kayley’s waters had broken, they never realised what awaited them.
Guest Blogger: Kayley
My pregnancy with Darcy had been fairly straightforward and I was feeling great! When we hit 30 weeks, we decided to take a weekend away with our daughter Grace and a few good friends to Centre Parcs near Milton Keynes.
We were having a great first day, going swimming and having pancakes. We made it to our lodge, started unpacking and making dinner when suddenly my waters broke!
All I could think about was how early it was, and that my baby was going to be so small.
We rang the labour line for advice and were told to go straight to Milton Keynes Hospital. We left our other daughter Grace with our friends, which was really hard, and set off to welcome our new baby into the world.
Soon after we arrived we were transferred to Basingstoke Hospital, 80 miles away.
We stayed there for 48 hours of monitoring, and when there were no further developments and no sign of an oncoming baby, we were allowed to head home.
A week later, my contractions finally began and over the weekend our baby girl Darcy was born at 31 weeks, weighing 3lb 13oz. She needed to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for four weeks, but after that, we were finally free to head home as a family of four!
We’d been settling into our life with our two girls, having been discharged from NICU for a week. I was putting our eldest daughter Grace to bed when my husband Matt suddenly started shouting that something wasn’t right with Darcy. I ran downstairs and discovered that my precious newborn baby had stopped breathing.
I carried out CPR on the dining room table whilst Matt called for an ambulance. They arrived within four minutes, but I can honestly say that it felt like the longest four minutes of our lives! When the paramedics arrived, thankfully Darcy had started breathing again, and they whisked her off to Basingstoke Hospital. At the hospital, they discovered Darcy was suffering from regular apnoea where the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse causing a blockage of the airway.
Darcy needed specialist care from the retrieval team at Southampton General Hospital, so the decision was made to transfer us there, 30 miles away, where she was incubated and admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit.
We were so scared and so worried. We’d been told that Darcy had essentially contracted a cold, but due to her being so tiny, her body was unable to cope.
After a week of being on the PICU ward, one of the doctors mentioned we could look into staying at the Ronald McDonald House, located on the hospital grounds. We put in a referral in the morning and by the afternoon we had checked in to the House! Walking in and looking around the Southampton House made us quite emotional.
We were so relieved that we could stay close to our baby and that our oldest daughter could come and stay too. It was really important to us that we were able to stay together as a family. We needed each other more than ever.
During our time in the House, we experienced Christmas! It was such a special time, and one of our most special memories. The House was decorated beautifully for the occasion, and Grace got to meet Father Christmas!
Grace absolutely loved the playroom and it became her sanctuary after spending long hours visiting her baby sister and being well-behaved for us. It meant so much that she could come back to the House to play and be noisy, it was the best! We also used to gather all the duvets on our bedroom floor and watch movies at the end of a long day and have little sleepovers all together. It bought back a bit of normality to such a difficult situation.
Darcy spent five weeks being transferred between different wards, including intensive care, high dependency and the general children’s ward. She also contracted respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) whilst in the hospital, putting her back into intensive care for a while longer. Darcy made improvements and eventually she was finally well enough to be discharged!
Although we were relieved to be able to head home and be a family of four again, we still have feelings of apprehensive in case Darcy became unwell again and we needed to come back.
It was weird leaving the House after so many weeks, it had become our ‘home away from home’ and we were so appreciative of all the support we had received from the staff and other families during our stay.
If we hadn’t been offered a room at the House, we would have really struggled.
We wouldn’t have been able to afford a hotel for that amount of time, especially as I was on maternity pay. It would have meant us travelling by car there and back every day, getting stuck in awful traffic.
I would have ended up needing to visit quite late and having to manage trips to the hospital around caring for our oldest daughter too.
I believe if we didn’t have our room at the House the whole experience probably would have broken us.
Thank you so much to everyone we met throughout our time staying at the House. It was a Charity that we didn’t know much about until it was our turn to make use of it. It really did make the world of difference and reduced the stress of a difficult situation. If you are able to donate to this incredible Charity then please do! It really will help so many families stay together rather than be torn apart.