Flynn’s journey started at 25 weeks. We always thought he would come early after our first child, Bradley, was born at 34 weeks but nothing prepared us for what was to come.
When my waters broke I went to our local hospital The Princess Alexandra and we were lucky enough that labour didn't start at that point. This meant I could be quickly transferred to The Rosie Hospital, in Cambridge, where I spent the following two weeks on the antenatal ward.
We had experienced the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before with Bradley so hearing all the machines again and even the smell of the unit, brought all the emotions back. But we knew that whenever our little baby boy arrived, we were in the right place and they would do everything they could to help him. And they did.
Flynn made his appearance on a bank holiday Monday and suddenly it was all very real. He was here. His journey and fight in this world had begun. Although he cried at birth he was ventilated quickly and taken to NICU. We eventually got to see him in the place we would watch him fighting to stay with us over the next sixteen weeks. Flynn followed the textbook premature baby troubles from breathing difficulties to heart problems, which meant constant ventilation, lumber punctures, blood transfusions and more. But it was everything the team had seen and dealt with before and what other parents we spoke to had experienced, which gave us comfort.
Thankfully, throughout this time we could be close to Flynn – just a couple of minutes away in fact. And this was only because of the fantastic Chestnut House which was our home for the first six weeks of his life. Chestnut House enabled us to be together as a family at weekends and meant I could stay with Flynn during the week.
Chestnut House is called a ‘Home from Home’ and it is exactly that. I will always be grateful that I didn’t have the additional stress of being away from Flynn and travelling every single day when he was so poorly. Having a homely place for our six year old was also so important. Bradley looked forward to coming to see Mummy and Flynn – it was like a mini holiday for him.
After six weeks had passed, Abi said Flynn was no longer the sickest baby and they needed the room for another family. This to me was great news and I went home to spend some quality time with Bradley. But the following morning I phoned and found out that Flynn had deteriorated in the night. By the time I got to the hospital he was critical and had to be re-ventilated. We discovered that he had septicaemia. That weekend was so hard. The doctors sat by his side tweaking the ventilator to keep him alive and Abi ensured us that we had a room in Chestnut House. This was the hardest weekend of our lives and without The Sick Children’s Trust we would’ve had to leave him - knowing he may not make it.
After we left for the second time we were very nervous. But we never had the same experience, there was never a call to say he was getting worse and never a call that meant we had to rush to his side. The next time we stayed at Chestnut House was when Flynn had his hernia operated on – but it was a completely different experience. Our baby was strong now, we knew he could pull through.
Sixteen weeks after Flynn was born, we were finally transferred back to our local hospital. We spent another two weeks in NICU then six weeks in paediatrics. Flynn got stronger, started to show his true personality and finally came home six months to the day that my waters broke. He is now a very excitable and happy 11 month old that clearly loves his big brother and being at home with his family.
He still has his feeding tube and requires oxygen, but he wouldn’t be here without the amazing teams at The Rosie Hospital and The Princess Alexandra Hospital.
We are so thankful for the opportunity to stay with Flynn while he was at The Rosie Hospital. It meant we could relax as we were close to him and could be there to do as much as possible in those most important and early days.
During my time in Chestnut House, I met other parents going through similar experiences and we have all become a great support for each other. By sharing our story, I hope that others will feel the same.
Helen Ledster, Flynn and Bradley’s mum
A few words from Flynn’s brother, Bradley:
“I first met Flynn when he was five days old. He was in an incubator for a long time. I visited Mummy at weekends and I was allowed to sleep over at Chestnut House. We had dinner together and I would play with all the toys in the house! I remember when I was allowed to put my hands inside Flynn’s bed. We held hands carefully for the first time. Over the many days, I read him stories and fed him whilst holding him in my arms. He was so small!At 100 days old we had fun with cake, balloons and I bought him a Tigger teddy with my pocket money and daddy’s help. Thank you Chestnut House for helping me stay near my brother.”