Six months on from its opening last September The Sick Children’s Trust’s Chestnut House in Cambridge has supported an astonishing 70 families in need.
Chestnut House is based at The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge and is run by The Sick Children’s Trust. The charity’s Vice President Esther Rantzen opened the house last year and since then families from across the UK have stayed with the charity which provides free high quality ‘Home from Home’ accommodation to families of sick babies being treated. The longest stay to date by a family has been 61 days.
One mum who has stayed at the facility and since returned home is 27 year old Kayleigh Thorne from Newport, Essex. She said: “Our son Ronnie was born at just 27 weeks weighing only 2lbs 2ounzes. He suffered from breathing problems which meant he had to be ventilated at birth and also treated for an infection due to him being so premature. We were miles away from home and didn’t know what to do until we heard about The Sick Children’s Trust. Already having a three year old, Archie, as well at the time as being a new mother meant I was very vulnerable and in particular those first few hours of Ronnie’s life were critical but having my family all in one area was the most important thing that got me through it all.
“My partner Andy and I stayed at the house with Archie for three weeks whilst Ronnie underwent treatments until he was deemed strong enough to be transferred back to our local hospital. However within a week of Ronnie’s transfer he developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis, a condition usually affects premature babies where the intestines become infected and can begin to die. So once again we found ourselves back at Chestnut House again for a few days before returning home for a week before returning to the charity’s second house Acorn House where we stayed until Ronnie was allowed to come home on 12th December. Staying at the charity’s house was a god send during this time. Without its support I don’t know what we would have done, in particular, Alan, the house manager made me smile of days I felt utter despair. I am so grateful to them.”
Since opening Chestnut House has provided support for families of premature and special care babies who otherwise would have nowhere else to stay. The ‘Home from Home’ has eight en-suite bedrooms, a communal living area and cooking and laundry facilities which will help to provide a comfortable, calming facility for families. It can support more than 300 families every year.
Alan Booth Manager at Chestnut House said: “Unfortunately Kayleigh’s story is not unique. Every day we have mums and dads come to the charity looking for somewhere to stay and we do our best to provide them with all the practical and emotional support we can to get them through this stressful time. The house has been full to capacity since opening and I am delighted that we have reached this milestone and helped so many families in need.
“Kayleigh’s was one of the first families to stay in the house and its wonderful to see how well all the family is doing now, especially Ronnie who has grown so much.”
Amanda Ogilvy-Stuart, clinical director for neonatal services, said: “Chestnut House is an excellent new facility for parents whose babies are being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit. We recognise that this can be a stressful experience, but having Chestnut House located just downstairs means they can be on hand 24-7 and be more involved with their baby’s care, when appropriate.”
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