Finding lifelong friendship in unprecedented times: Sophie and Vicki’s story

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‘Without the support of Sophie, I can honestly say I would not be as positive as I am now. Craig moved back home until he was allowed back on the ward and Sophie became my go-to person.’

Guest Blogger: Vicki

Craig and I have been staying in Ronald McDonald House Manchester since June 2019, when our daughter was transferred from our local hospital. Jessica was born at 29 weeks and initial x-rays revealed she needed to have part of her right lung removed. As a result, Jessica had chronic lung disease and needed ventilation to keep her lungs moving.

 

In December 2019, after many failed attempts to get Jessica off mechanical ventilation, her respiratory consultant told us that she needed a tracheostomy fitted if we were to go home.

This was a huge decision for Craig and me to process. A tracheostomy involves creating an opening in the neck in order to place a tube into a person’s windpipe. The tube is inserted through a cut in the neck below the vocal cords. This allows air to enter the lungs. We knew it was needed; however, this was incredibly hard to come to terms with.

The nurses on paediatric high dependency were great at explaining and talking through different questions we had. However, we needed to speak to other parents who had gone through similar.

I got in touch with a mum, who I had briefly seen in passing on the neonatal intensive care unit back in July when her daughter, Amelia was born. Sophie and her partner Rob have also been staying in Ronald McDonald House Manchester since July 2019. Sophie allowed me to ask the strangest of questions to support my understanding of what Jessica would need to go through. Amelia had a tracheostomy fitted due to a Laryngeal cleft and being diagnosed with TOF and OA (tracheo-oesophageal fistula (TOF) and oesophageal atresia (OA)).

After Jessica had her tracheostomy fitted in January 2020, she was moved to Ward 83 in Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Sophie had told me many things about the ward as Amelia had be on Ward 83 since November 2019. Sophie told us how supportive the staff were and how the children’s development excelled with all the activities and sessions that were available for the children to join in with.

Once on the ward, we soon realised that we had something in common. Being a very similar age, it was easy to be able to talk through the situations that we were both going through. We both had supportive families and friends at home, however, it was remarkable how good it felt to be able to talk someone that understood what you are going through. Other people can listen and comfort, but it takes someone who has been through the same situations to totally understand.

Through National Lockdown, it has been tough for everyone staying in any hospital. We were given the tough choice to decide which parent was going to stay on the ward as only ‘One named visitor per patient is permitted in Children’s Wards, Maternity Wards and Neonatal Units at any one time.’ Craig and Rob, unfortunately, from 25th March weren’t allowed on the ward.

The ward became a family. Without the support of Sophie, I can honestly say I would not be as positive as I am now. Craig moved back home, until he was allowed back on the ward, and Sophie became my go-to person.

Ronald McDonald House Manchester has meant we have had a place to share our thoughts and feelings. We have been lucky to be placed on the same floor in the house, and meeting in the morning on our way to the ward or passing on the corridor always puts smiles on faces.

Amelia and Jessica have created a forever lasting friendship and it shows every day. Being able to see children of a similar age supports their development. They have both flourished since living in beds next to each other and love seeing each other all the time.

We have all made lifelong friendships and as the girls grow up, we will always remind them of these times and how their mums supported each other, when living in a hospital through a Worldwide Pandemic.

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