When my twin boys, Luca and Reece, were six weeks old they both caught a cold. They went off their feeds and were sleeping all the time. Increasingly anxious, I took them to our local GP, who advised me to take them straight to Hinchingbrooke Hospital. On arrival both babies were examined and immediately admitted. My husband, Mark, held my hand as we were told they both had bronchiolitis and that Luca’s oxygen saturation levels were dangerous low. His little body was shutting down.
An X-ray the following day showed that Luca’s left lung was completely blocked and by that evening he had to be ventilated. A tube was inserted down his windpipe and a machine began to breathe for him. However, Hinchingbrooke didn’t have the specialist care Luca needed and he had to be transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. We didn’t want either of our babies to be alone in hospital, so we decided that Mark would stay with Reece and I would go in the ambulance with Luca to Cambridge. It would be the first time our babies had ever been separated, but we didn’t have time to dwell on that.
We arrived at Addenbrooke’s Hospital about 2am. Once Luca was settled on the paediatric intensive care unit I felt a little less anxious. Soon enough a nurse approached me to and told me about Acorn House. I had wrongly assumed that I would be able to stay with Luca on the ward, so it was a relief to hear I had been allocated a room, free of charge, in a ‘Home from Home’ run by a charity called The Sick Children’s Trust. I had never heard of such a charity, but since staying in Acorn House I have told all my friends and family about what an incredible job the charity does for families like mine.
For the next eleven days Acorn House became my ‘Home from Home’. It was an overwhelming time. Not only was I alone in Cambridge with an unconscious baby, but I was separated from my husband, older son, Jamie, and Reece, who was still being treated in Hinchingbrooke Hospital. At least the Acorn House took some of the worries away and I could focus on Luca. There were fresh towels and linen and the rooms were spacious and the bed was so comfortable. One morning as I left Acorn House to walk over to the ward, Abi popped her head out of the office and told me I wouldn’t need to think about dinner that evening. She said that volunteers from a local company were coming into the house to cook a meal for all the resident families. That night when I arrived back to Acorn House, exhausted and missing my family, there was a home cooked lasagne and freshly baked brownies waiting for me. It made a welcome change from the microwave ready meals I had been living off. It is little touches like this, during such traumatic times, that make all the difference to families with seriously ill children in hospital.
Luca was ventilated for nine days, which was very tough. It is so strange to see your baby unconscious and not be allowed to hold him. I was reassured that he wasn’t getting any worse, but worried because he didn’t seem any better. Thankfully, after eight days Luca woke up and began to breathe on his own. The next day, and with Luca making a miraculous recovery, I packed up my things and said goodbye to Abi and the Acorn House staff. I thanked them for supporting me and told them the good news – Luca was being transferred back to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, much closer to home. Reece had also been discharged by this point, making it home with Mark the day before. Finally, we were going to be reunited as a family. It was such a relief!
Luca spent just two days in Hichingbrooke Hospital before being allowed home. It felt very surreal to be back with my babies, Jamie and Mark, but we soon settled back into a routine.
Nine months on and the twins are now crawling and Jamie is very involved - he is only four so very active! Luca and Reece do continue to have respiratory issues and both are on montelukast, a drug that prevents asthma and they have inhalers. Now, we are planning a big over the top family Christmas and will celebrate with our extended family, grateful that the twins recovered and all is finally well.
Steph Elderton, Luca, Reece and Jamie’s Mum.