Jenson is my first child so I had no idea what giving birth would be like. I can say for certain that I never imagined it would turn out the way it did or that in the days that followed our worst fears would unfold. My husband, Jay, and I ended up miles away from home, watching our son fight for his life. We were thrown into a situation that we didn’t know how to handle. I was recovering from an emergency caesarean in hospital, while Jay slept in the car so that he could be close to both Jenson and me. That was until The Sick Children’s Trust offered us a ‘Home from Home’.
Jenson’s due date was 6 April, Jay and I were so excited to meet the little boy we had waited nine months for, but he wasn’t ready to come into the world. A fortnight later, there was still no sign of him despite experiencing contractions. I was exhausted and in agony until finally the doctors broke my waters.
Hours passed. I was given an epidural and was put on an induction drip to speed up the labour. However, this interrupted the blood flow to Jenson and caused his heart rate to slow and drop.
When Jenson was born he was blue, floppy and not breathing. He’d ingested meconium and inhaled it into his lungs, which meant he was being starved of oxygen. The doctors tried to clear his lungs, but weren’t able to and Jenson was rushed out of the room. Jay and I had barely set eyes on our son. We were confused, worried and didn’t have a clue what was going on.
It felt like our family had been torn apart before it had even had a chance to come together. All three of us were in different parts of the hospital and unbeknownst to us, Jenson had a cardiac arrest – something incredibly rare in a newborn baby.
A midwife kindly took a photo of my son. This was the first look I had of Jenson and he was five hours old. It wasn’t until he was around ten hours old that Jay and I finally got to meet him. He was in an incubator, covered in tubes, and he looked so poorly. It was heartbreaking. For months we’d been talking about our first cuddle and kiss we would have with our baby. But the moment we’d imagined didn’t come until days after Jenson was born.
Jenson’s life was in serious danger. Unsure whether he would survive, he was rushed by the ANTS team to The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge, an hour away from our home in Tilbury. We had to stay strong. I followed in an ambulance, while Jay travelled in the car behind us. By the time we arrived, Jenson was undergoing emergency cooling treatment. They wrapped him in a little vest and placed him on a mat, both of which contained cool circulating water in an attempt to reduce his core temperature to avoid any brain injury. Jenson’s case was one of the worst they’d seen, but we were given a glimmer of hope. He wasn’t the sickest baby they’d seen.
For 72 hours Jenson fought for his life. We had to stand back and just hope that he would pull through and get better. During this time I was on the post-natal ward, and it was really difficult because there were loads of mums with their babies and I could hear them crying at night knowing I hadn't heard my baby cry yet and might not.
Dealing with this would’ve been much harder without Jay. The Rosie Hospital was great in allowing partners on the ward for the majority of the day and night. Jay would be with me at every possible moment, although at night time would have to sleep in the car. I felt so bad for him.
Three days later, Jenson was still critically ill but I was discharged from hospital. I was so worried about being separated from my son. If anything happened to him while we weren’t at the hospital, we didn’t know if we would get to him in time. But thankfully the nurses on NICU called The Sick Children’s Trust to see if there was room for us in the charity’s ‘Home from Home’, Chestnut House.
Chestnut House is just below NICU, all we had to do was get in a lift to go see Jenson. I didn’t anticipate the pain I’d be in following a caesarean. Getting in a car to travel for two hours every day would’ve been agony. Another thing that comes with having a caesarean is that you have to have injections every day for a week. At Chestnut House we had our own private en-suite room where I could do this in a comfortable space. Also, as we walked in the door to the bedroom, I was pleased to see two single beds. I was so sore from delivery, it was a huge relief not to worry about getting accidently kicked in the night by Jay!
We spent as much time as possible at Jenson’s bedside. But as he slept, we would retreat to Chestnut House and watch a bit of telly together to have a bit of normality. I’d also take this time to express as Jenson wouldn’t feed. At Chestnut House there were expressing machines, alongside a specialised fridge where I could store the milk. This was a huge help, especially when I had to express at 5am! I often wonder how I would have even got milk to Jenson without it getting too warm or cold if we had not been given a room at Chestnut House.
Jenson’s recovery went much better than expected - we are really lucky. Many children who are starved of oxygen for as long as he was are diagnosed with lifelong conditions. As soon as Jenson was woken up, he was very inquisitive. He wanted to know what the world looked like!
Since then, Jenson has gone from strength to strength. After he turned one year old he went for a check-up and we will being going again before he turns two to check he’s meeting all his milestones – which he is! Jenson is doing really well proving to be very intelligent. He has learnt how to sign from watching Mr Tumble and if you ask him what noise a cow makes (or any other animal for that matter) he will do it! We’re so over the moon and feel so fortunate that our son has managed to pull through and is a bundle of energy that we love keeping up with.
Jay and I will be forever grateful to The Sick Children’s Trust for keeping us close to Jenson at a vital time. We are also so thankful to the ANTS and NICU teams that looked after him so well and saved his life. We recently raised £800 at a family party to celebrate Jenson’s 1st birthday, my dad’s 60th, my sisters’ 16th and 18th and my 30th to just say thank you, and hope the money will go towards making a difference to another family’s life.
Katie and Jason Jones, Jenson’s parents