Our son Travis was born at 24 weeks old in our local hospital in Luton and Dunstable. A few weeks after the birth though it became apparent to the doctors that something wasn’t right and he was in severe pain in his stomach.
At only two and a half weeks old the doctors put him on medication to try and treat him but they soon realised that this wasn’t working as effectively as they had hoped, so he was transferred more than 30 miles away from our home in Stevenage to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
I went with him in the ambulance whilst my partner Roger followed by car.
When we arrived at the ward, Travis was settled in and the doctor told us that they wanted to monitor him before making a decision on whether or not to proceed with the surgery.
Initially I was allowed to stay on the ward for a few days but I was told that if a child was brought in from further away than us or in a more critical condition we would be moved. Luckily we were able to stay for three days, so this answered the initial stress of the question of where we going to sleep that night.
After three nights we had to make the heart wrenching decision to leave Travis and go home. As we didn’t know about The Sick Children’s Trust and Acorn House we felt we had no option but to make the 60 mile round trip every day for the next 12 days. The stress of doing this was immense, but we had three other children to care for and consider.
In the middle of December the doctors told us that the medication still didn’t appear to be working, and one month after he was born the decision was made for Travis to undergo surgery.
The hospital found me accommodation for one night so that I could be there when Travis woke up but then we had to go back to the round trip to home every day for the next three months.
I can’t even begin to tell you the gut wrenching feeling of being torn between your newborn baby who you desperately want to be there for, and your younger children who wonder where mummy and daddy are going each day.
After his surgery Travis was moved to a ward where I was allowed to sleep by his side and it was here that we learned about The Sick Children’s Trust’s Acorn House. We decided to try for a room so that my partner could stay here and bring over our other children who were just 18, 14 and two. We were worried about the effect it would have on Warren, our two year old in particular, as he was so young.
Having to cope with a toddler in this type of situation was so stressful. Luckily with my eldest being 18, she looked after Holly during the week and then Holly and Danielle would come join us at Acorn House at the weekend, but Warren was different. I couldn’t explain to him what was going on and he didn’t like being on the wards and we didn’t really want to put him through that, and let him see his little brother in that environment.
Acorn House was a life saver for us. Warren loved spending time in the playroom and also in the garden. It was a relief to me to be able to cook him healthy meals here too, and at the weekend when the girls would visit we could all spend time together as a family.
Travis was too sick to come to the house at first and I was only allowed one hour breaks with him away from the ward, but even if it only meant spending 20 minutes in the house it was worth it. To have Warren engrossed in a DVD whilst I fed Travis gave me the sense of normality I was craving so badly.
I also used the rooms to express milk; private space was great. And the phones in the room meant that I could contact the ward to let them know that I was on my way over with food. The washing facilities were also a necessity for us. Travis’s condition meant that he had a short gut and couldn’t digest food properly so he used to leak out onto his clothes. Initially, one of the main reasons we had to drive back and forth from home each day was to do the washing but with the facilities at Acorn House it meant we didn’t have to worry about this and every precious moment could be spent with our children.
Travis is home now and exceeding all expectations. When you have a sick child, as well as all the family and emotional issues you go through, you don’t really think about the practical side of things such as the cooking and cleaning, not to mention finances. Having four children meant I needed space for my children and Acorn House made our life so much easier. I just wish we had known about it sooner.
Angela Hamilton, Travis’s mum
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