What do you think when looking back on a child’s life?
This weekend, I celebrated my son’s 5th birthday. For those readers who do not know, my son was born at 28+2 weeks gestation – almost 12 weeks premature – and had less than a 50% chance of survival.
In the first few days, I’ll never forget the words of a nurse who first reviewed my wife’s health after a caesarian-section.
Where there is life, there is hope …” – Lynette Roberts, Midwife at William Harvey Hospital. Ashford, Kent.
These were the words we both held onto as we asked to meet with the doctor 24 hours later. I still have the audio recording from that very meeting.
21st May 2011:
Prior to birth, Freddie was transferred from Royal Free in Hampstead, North London to the NICU (Neonatal Incubation Care Unit) by ‘blues’ ambulance, 85 miles away from where we lived. I followed in the car behind, unsure of what was to be the next next 3 months of our lives …
Despite the apparent emergency, our son was delivered the next afternoon at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent. I recall it vividly as the medical staff worked away to the radio with the Black Eyed Peas: ‘I gotta feeling’ playing in the background.
Across the South East – we were ready to fill the only incubator available (which I still do not believe) – and have the safe hands of the only medical team available. In London just 24 hours before, it took almost 8 hours for the consultant to find us a team with an incubator available at the same time.
Over the course of the first 30 days, we traveled to visit our son everyday. I had just taken voluntary redundancy from a job I was not enjoying, driving an exhausting 3,000 miles over the course of one month. The decision was worth it and almost made the torture endured at work, insignificant.
Nobody prepares you for life in a neo-natal hospital. Most families have ‘the perfect birth’, even if labour lasts hours and hours and despite the long journey, we were only too happy to contribute towards a new guide for parents that is now distributed out to anyone expecting a preemie.
Over the years, Tommys Baby, Bliss Chairty, Great Ormond Street Hospital and SERV Kent have become charities very close to us. Having succumbed meningitis, two hernia operations, 4 blood transfusions and countless procedures to save his life, Freddie needed the care and attention from all of these experts.
One month into his life, he was transferred 85 miles north to Barnet Hospital, just 4 miles away from home! It was just another 6 weeks later, about the time of the riots in 2011 and after a total of 12 weeks (82 days) at hospital, Freddie was finally allowed to go home on oxygen support.
It was his original due date – his 0th birthday – on 11th August 2011. It took another 3 months for him to breathe normally and another year for him to start showing signs of a one year-old in terms of development and milestones.
It was a difficult period that I will never forget.
5 Years Later …
This weekend, 5 years later, I celebrated my son’s 5th birthday with my wife and family. You can read my thoughts here about my first Father’s Day out of hospital; the first was of course by Freddie’s bedside.
In September 2015, his first day at school was a real landmark, and despite his initial start in life, it still amazes me to see him develop like any other child.
Freddie – 5 years later
Recently, an informal message appeared onto Freddie’s elearning-portfolio. It wasn’t an official report as such, but the teacher had clearly gone out of her way to update us on how well he is doing.
Freddie you have made so much progress in the last few weeks.
You are beginning to write sentences independently using your sounds to spell. You use finger spaces and spell some of the words correctly. You are writing digraphs and using capital letters at the beginning of sentences. You enjoy reading books, listen to questions and can talk about a book. You are pleased with yourself and know you are good at writing.
You are growing in confidence every day. You stick up for yourself, say what you want to do and help other children. You told [name] that he was in the wrong position when ordering numbers as a class. You know number 3 is bigger than 1 so told him to move. You love telling me what you have learned, showing me what you have done and you are proud.
You chose painting and mixed colours and made a picture with a rainbow. You explained how you made dark red. Your drawings are becoming more detailed and you said I painted sun and clouds and a rainbow. It was sunny and hot that day and you enjoyed drinking from your new water bottle because you were thirsty.
My favourite thing you did this week was you drawings of robots and spiders. You enjoyed drawing and changed your picture saying wait I need this or now I am adding this (changing your plan and using your own ideas). You showed me how good you were at counting an irregular set of objects, counting backwards and writing numbers to 5 and adding to sets of objects by counting to find a total. You kept saying “I have added 2 more, now there is 7 look. 7-6-5-4-3-2-1!”
I asked if ‘I took two away how many now?’ and you understood and took two away.
You concentrate for a long time and aren’t distracted. You enjoy your handwriting activity and form the letters correctly following the instructions. You listen carefully to stories and during assemblies. You listened to Mr. [name] read you a story.
You also were confident during PE jumping off tall apparatus by yourself. You used your fine motor skills to punch wholes and thread through them during ‘Funky Fingers’. You were patient and took turns. Also, you talked about how the caterpillars are changing and like looking at them.
Freddie’s 5th birthday party
Freddie was born Saturday 21st May 2011 at 17.42pm, weighing just 730 grams (1lb 9ozs). He was classified as ‘extreme preterm’ as well as ‘extreme low-birthweight.’ (Tommy’s Baby)
Freddie was in hospital for 82 days, which equates to a total of £287,000! (6 weeks in Intensive Care and 6 weeks in Special Care). If we could raise just one day’s equivalent costs, we’d be delighted.