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Staying close for her recovery: Georgia's story

September 08, 2023

Trigger warning: This story contains images that some may find upsetting.

Before mum Ashleigh gave birth, there had been no problems or unexpected complications with her pregnancy. Soon after her baby girl Georgia was born, serious medical conditions were identified and suddenly the family found themselves in a “shocking and hectic” situation when Georgia was transferred miles away from home to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for treatment.

Thankfully, our Ronald McDonald House Manchester were there to support the family in their time of need.

Guest blogger: Ashleigh

I gave birth to our baby girl Georgia at our local hospital in Burnley. Soon after, when doing checks, Georgia’s dad Robert noticed that she had been born with an imperforate anus (missing anus). She was checked over by doctors and was quickly whisked away. We were transferred to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital where Georgia underwent surgery to have a stoma (an opening of the abdomen to collect waste).

During Georgia’s time in theatre, the surgeons discovered that her kidneys were not performing as they should be and that her bladder was smaller than normal. Further tests found that Georgia had kidney failure and part of her spine was missing. Nothing like this had been identified during my pregnancy and we didn’t know what to expect. It was so shocking and hectic, but we knew that being at leading specialist hospital in the UK, Georgia’s medical issues were very serious.

I was really worried about how I would see my other children (Grayson, four, and Jaxon, two) back at home in Burnley. A nurse on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) ward told us about Ronald McDonald House Manchester, a place that accommodates families with a child in hospital. A referral form was completed by the hospital staff and sent over to the House immediately. While we waited for a bedroom to become available, we had to sleep in the family rooms on the NICU ward.

I remember a Sunday night when we had just made the decision to leave Georgia for the first time and go home to give ourselves a little break away from the hospital. As we were walking out of the hospital, we received a phone call to say a bedroom had become available. I was so happy in that moment; it was such a massive relief.

When we entered Ronald McDonald House Manchester, we instantly felt welcomed and the member of staff who greeted us was very lovely. We really did not know what to expect of the facilities, but I was taken aback. Everything we needed was there, including kitchen and washing facilities. It immediately took a lot of the strain and worry away from us and allowed us to really focus on our baby girl’s recovery.

At the weekends, my boys were able to come and stay with us and play in the garden and Day Room. We tried our best to make it a fun adventure for them. To be able to have them stay with us, rather than keeping them away at home with grandparents helped greatly with my feelings of guilt.

The House allowed other family members to come and visit us to simply sit and enjoy a coffee, something we couldn’t do comfortably in the hospital. Even friends came to visit, and they could not believe how amazing the House was and what they offered to families like us. Financially, the House was a huge help, as it meant I did not have to keep traveling to Burnley and back. I don’t know how we would have managed with fuel costs, and we wouldn’t have been able to afford hotel accommodation.

There are many moments that stand out from staying at the Manchester House, but the one we remember most was Father’s Day. It had slipped my mind to get Rob a card with everything that was going on, but the House team came to my rescue. They had arranged little gift bags for all the dads staying, and it really put a smile on Rob’s face and he definitely appreciated it. It reminded us that the House really cared and was there to support us.

To be so close to Georgia’s side at any time, day or night, helped her recovery in hospital. We were able to do her night feeds and it made sure that we had the bonding time with her. I hated the thought of somebody else cradling my new-born baby and feeding her when that should be me. We would both set our alarms and walk just across the road to the hospital ward for the feeds every night.

It was also great to be staying within a community where people are in similar, difficult situations to us. We could speak to other parents and carers and relate to all the emotions we were feeling. It was comforting because they knew, to an extent, what we were going through and they understood.

Without Ronald McDonald House Manchester, I would have slept in a chair on the ward and Rob would have had to stay in Burnley with the boys. There was no doubt about it, I was never going to be too far away from Georgia. There is around a 45-mile distance between Manchester and Burney (approx. 40 minutes without traffic), so if we were needed to be with Georgia during an emergency, it would have been impossible to get there quickly enough. Having the accommodation at the House enabled us to stay together and close by for any eventuality.

When we checked out, we both had a range of emotions. We were happy to be going home, but also a bit sad as the House had become a familiar and safe place – our safety net. On day visits when Georgia has been back in theatre, we will always stop by and make use of the day facilities, which are great. It just helps take the anxiety away a little, rather than sitting in the hospital twiddling our thumbs and clock watching, we had somewhere calm, comfortable, and homely to wait.

Nothing was ever too much for the staff at the House and they really supported us during our stay. We may have only been there for a short time, but we have done some of our own fundraising to give something back. Some families had been staying at the House for years and are still there now – the value of this amazing Charity cannot be underestimated, and they rely on the generosity of others. I would encourage everyone to take part in donating or fundraising for the Charity to help them continue supporting families in hard times.

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