Our daughter, Eva, has had two little nicknames during her life so far. Eva two tubes and Eva no tubes!
Eva was born prematurely at 27 weeks plus three days gestation. In this case, ignorance was bliss. I knew nothing about the complications prematurity would bring so at the time I didn't feel overwhelmed. I had also been in and out of hospital since 24 weeks pregnant because I was experiencing bleeding from a low-lying placenta.
It was Easter weekend, and we had all of my husband Ross’ family over for a meal. By this point I had stopped bleeding, but had noticed the odd trickling of water that morning. Having never been pregnant before, I didn’t think too much of it. But it wasn’t long before we were on our way to hospital where I found out my waters had broken and I was 3cm dilated.
We were told that Eva was distressed and the doctors needed me to give birth to her immediately. It all became very surreal when I was introduced to the surgeon who was going to perform my caesarean – it was actually someone Ross and I went to school with! This made us feel calmer as we knew we were in good hands and he was amazing. He reassured us that everything was going to be fine.
It all happened so quickly and I remember vividly that Eva didn’t cry. Because she was so distressed she’d actually inhaled meconium – which is extremely toxic and has the potential to cause excessive damage to a baby’s lungs. Because of this, Eva was struggling to breathe and had to be whisked away immediately to be ventilated.
It wasn’t how I’d imagined giving birth to my daughter would be like.
A day later, I finally set eyes on Eva. We had both been too unwell to see each other, but when I did meet her it was a shocking moment. There was no fat on her at all. And she was almost see-through. She was also very tiny and only weighed 830g. Seeing her then was a big reality check and everything that had happened in the previous 24 hours hit home, it was the scariest moment I have experienced to date.
The doctors were having problems regulating Eva’s blood pressure – and they didn’t have the facilities at Basildon Hospital to look after her, therefore we needed to be transferred to The Royal London Children’s Hospital which was miles away from home. I say we, but I had to stay at Basildon until I was allowed to be discharged the next day and there was nowhere for Ross to stay in London so he stayed with me. It felt like this was another night that our daughter had to face the big scary world on her own. It was the worst feeling.
When Ross and I finally arrived at The Royal London Hospital, we were taken to Eva who was on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). There, we were introduced to a man called Alan who was from a charity called The Sick Children’s Trust and ran its Stevenson House. Stevenson House was a ‘Home from Home’ which was free accommodation for families with seriously ill children in hospital. He confirmed that there was a room for us at Stevenson House. I burst into tears. I was so relieved.
Every day that passed felt like a trudge through mud. The hours went on forever. Eva was so small and needed a lot of help with her breathing – she was on oxygen and had tubes going through her nose.
During this time, Stevenson House was very important to us. Because we were able to stay so close, just minutes from Eva’s side, it meant we could be with her all day and all night if we wanted to be. And at whatever time she needed us, Ross would wheel me over to see her.
Leaving Eva in the evenings filled me with anxiety. Although the thought that she wouldn’t survive never crossed my mind, I was still scared that she’d take a turn for the worse. The nurses were wonderful which gave me lots of confidence that she would be OK. And the fact that we were given a double room meant Ross and I could be together throughout Eva’s time in NICU which really went a long way in helping us emotionally and physically.
Alan was incredible. He’d take the time to sit with us over a cuppa and have a chat. He introduced us to other parents from Basildon who had premature babies which really helped as we didn’t feel so alone.
We were discharged from The Royal London Hospital and transferred back to our local hospital when Eva was two weeks old and weighed a kilo which was a huge milestone! The plan was to eventually wean Eva off her oxygen at home with support from the local hospital when she was finally discharged three weeks before her due date. However shortly after her discharge, Eva’s reflux was so severe that she kept rejecting her feed so she had to have a feeding tube inserted into her stomach. After six weeks she just wasn’t getting any better and so we made the decision to go to The Portland Hospital in London, within two weeks she was off oxygen and on oral feeds. She no longer had any tubes!!
Eva has really turned a corner in the last few months, she’s shown everyone what she’s made of. And we are so proud to be her parents. She is our feisty miracle!
Charlie Ferrington, Eva’s Mum