Will and Laurie were so excited for the birth of their first child, Arthur. It was supposed to be a magical day. Unfortunately, complications with Arthur’s birth meant this little family went through the worst shock imaginable. Will, Arthur’s dad, tells us about their journey.
“Arthur was our first pregnancy. We were in our local hospital in Bath, Laurie was doing amazingly and everything seemed to be fine. As the labour progressed, the midwives started to become slightly concerned by Arthur’s heart rate. They were worried he wasn’t coping well with the contractions. Then, in the early hours of the morning, one of the doctors wanted to do a scratch test on Arthur’s head, which let them check his blood oxygen levels.
And the doctor’s face, it just went white. I knew something was seriously wrong.
Laurie, my wife, was in a bad way with the pain and had become quite unwell, so I had to give consent for an emergency caesarean.
Arthur was born within half an hour. He was so poorly when he was born, purple and quiet. The doctors had to resuscitate Arthur to get him breathing. We had a photo taken with him, which was difficult, because we didn’t know whether that was the only photo of him we’d ever get.
And then just like that, Arthur was rushed away for further treatment, leaving us without the baby we had just welcomed. It was so hard for both of us, particularly Laurie who had gone from having Arthur as part of her, to not having him to hold. When Arthur was brought back, he was in an incubator and wrapped in a cooling jacket. The NEST team came to explain to us that Arthur needed an emergency transfer to the specialist Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St Michael’s Hospital. He’d been diagnosed with HIE, which is a type of brain injury caused by the brain not receiving enough oxygen.
As Arthur was taken away in the ambulance, I sat outside the hospital doors and cried because I was just so scared.
I followed behind the ambulance in the car and Laurie had to stay in our local hospital in Bath for 24 hours. We were both alone.
I met Dr Anoo Jain and the team, and they did an amazing job of explaining what they were going to do, how Arthur was, and what the outcome was looking like. Laurie arrived a day later, and they reassured us, reminded us that we were the patients as well as Arthur.
Will, Arthur’s dad
We needed looking after, because of what we were going through, which was really important, really valuable for us. And the team was just amazing.
I’m quite rational-minded and logical. I like stats and numbers. And I just knew, I knew that the likelihood of something like this happening was so small. I couldn’t stop thinking, “This can’t be happening. The likelihood of this happening is so slim. I know, it has to happen to someone, but it just shouldn’t be happening to us.”
I really struggled to get my head around the possibility and the reality of it all.
Seeing Arthur in the incubator and cooling jacket was overwhelming at first. He was cooled for 72 hours – a method designed to limit the damage done to the brain, pioneered by Professor Marianne Thoresen at St Michael’s. Even though I knew it was what he needed, it all just looked so much for such a small, fragile little thing.
For days, the closest we could get was just a chair next to an incubator. It was so hard, for both Laurie and I, to not be able to hold him, feed him. We were given a Miniboo comforter by the NICU staff to help us bond. Arthur still has it now – he sleeps with it in his bed.
We got free accommodation at Cots for Tots House, which was just invaluable. We met Anne, who sorted us out with a room. The lovely thing about being there was that you’re there with all the other parents. Your babies are all together, so it’s nice that you’re together as well. We got to know the other mums and dads, their stories – it was just a nice sense of camaraderie and closeness.
The amazing thing about Cots for Tots House is that there’s no “oh, we’ve just got to do this,” or “can you just fill this in?” It was all just done, and everything was dealt with afterwards, which was exactly what we needed. It made things so much easier for us by not giving us any more decisions to have to make – there was a roof over our heads and a warm bed, for as long as we’d need it.
I ran the Bournemouth Marathon a few months after Arthur was born, which was a bit mad in the blur of looking after a new baby, and the fog of the stress and anxiety we were still working through. But it meant we could give something back to Cots for Tots for all the amazing things they did for our family. Running every day, having a goal, was a great challenge and an incredible release for me. It was also a chance to connect with friends and family who knew Arthur had been in NICU, to get them involved too.
Cots for Tots is supported by fundraising. Someone had fundraised before us, which meant that room, that service, was there in our hour of need. I felt a debt of gratitude in the best possible way, and I wanted to do what I could to support it. To make sure the next family that came after us could get the same level of support as we did. It was our way of giving back.
Will, Arthur’s dad
After five or six days, we went back to our local hospital in Bath. After a few more days, we got to take Arthur home and learn how to be parents, and deal with all the challenges and joys a baby brings to a new family. The doctors have been delighted with Arthur’s progress ever since.
Arthur is incredible. He shows absolutely no signs of his traumatic start to life. He went for regular check-ups for months, because HIE can cause all sorts of developmental problems down the line – but everything he went through at birth seems to have no impact on his life today. And it’s down to the work done by the team at St Michael’s that Arthur will lead as good a life as we could wish for him. We are so fortunate to have a world-leading NICU at St Michael’s Hospital, so close to us and the other families in the South West.
Arthur is inquisitive, curious, and has such a thirst to learn. He’s always asking us questions, and if he doesn’t get an answer out of us, he’ll take it upon himself to ask our Google speaker! He learned how to ride a bike at three, and by four he could count to 200. He’s so kind to his little brother, Eddie; they’re the best of friends.
– Will and Laurie, Arthur’s mum and dad
Who he is and the person he’s turning in to – he’s just perfect. We just feel so lucky.
We know it could’ve been a very different outcome. That’s why his first day at school was so emotional for us. There were no health problems surrounding him, he doesn’t need any extra assistance.
He’s just a four-year-old, starting school. And for that, we will be forever grateful.”
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