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Everything went downhill within hours: Elsie's story

May 16, 2022

Guest blogger: Katie

Everything was fine.

We had a quick labour at the Wallingford Birthing Centre. It was then when we took her home, about two hours later, that we noticed some things weren’t quite right.

When we went to introduce Elsie to our family, my cousin Sam, a midwife, noticed something odd about Elsie’s nostrils… She took me to the side and said we needed to get her looked at.

Bronchiolitis is what they originally said it was and then she just kind of went downhill from there quite quickly. Within about an hour or two hours.

She was basically just giving up. Her breathing slowed right down, so it was a sudden quick rush to get her to the intensive care unit (ICU) where they then had to ventilate her and said at the time it was just a precautionary measure – they thought she was going to be fine. But as the minutes went on, she just got worse and worse and worse. They took us into a room and sat us down and said, “Elsie took a turn for the worse last night.”

She wasn’t doing well on her ventilator, they had to put her on something called an oscillator which is a weird old machine. Instead of breathing normally, as they do for babies, as in it inhales and exhales, it does one big breath in and then shakes. It’s a very loud machine, so you go in and you see your tiny baby on this noisy, shaking machine. 

In ICU, you’re just in the way, because you can’t even touch your baby… you can’t hold your baby… and if the doctors need to get in there, they throw you out the way.

They do have a parent’s room, but that was all we had to sit in and I think we slept kind of on and off in there. They then found us a bedroom that was next door to the ward which was just… it was a storage room, essentially. 

I remember I was sitting in that room and my mum comes and knocks on the door. I opened the door and she is bawling her eyes out and I just remember thinking “this is it, that it’s happened… my baby’s passed away”. Once I got her to stop crying, she said that Elsie had been put on another ventilator and she has reacted so well to it. All her stats went up and suddenly from the doctors saying “We can’t do anything for her.” to saying, “Actually, we think we can get on top of this.” – that was euphoric. 

We got a call to say there was a room in Ronald McDonald House Oxford and it was just a breath of fresh air. We got up there and there were bags on the bed – one for me, one for my husband, that had toiletries in and things that we hadn’t realised we needed. We hadn’t showered for a few days, we were covered in dust and stained with tears. But I had somewhere to pump which was the most amazing thing for me. I remember putting Friends on my phone and feeling a bit of relaxation which then meant my milk supply started coming in because when you’re nervous and you’re anxious, it doesn’t work. It was amazing because the doctor had said to me “You can’t do anything for your baby right now apart from pump” because my body could create the antibodies for her. So, to be able to do that in a safe environment that was cosy and didn’t smell was amazing.

At the time, Elsie was on the other side of the hospital, so if we wanted to just go check in to see how she was, it was quite a long walk and obviously in the middle of the night… Whereas in the Ronald McDonald House Oxford they gave you a phone and they said, “We’ll call you, you call us”.

It was a tough time, but I’m very grateful for Ronald McDonald House Charities UK. They had facilities to cook in because we hadn’t eaten an actual meal in probably a week! We were living off the vending machine chocolate and amid everything we’d been through, it was a nice time for me and Joe to just have somewhere to go.

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