The 18th November 2018 is the day our lives changed forever. Whilst enjoying a quiet Sunday night, Emily went into spontaneous labour at only 27 weeks and 5 days pregnant with our twin boys, Dexter and Zachary. With the help of Max, we delivered our twins at home on the bathroom floor!!! Dexter appeared first and was quickly followed by Zachary, who wasn't breathing. With no paramedics in sight, Max was forced to carry out CPR on Zachary in order to start his breathing.
This was only to be the start of our roller-coaster journey.
Shortly after, the paramedics arrived and whisked the four of us to Airedale General Hospital, with Max and Zachary going first followed quickly by Emily and Dexter. The illusion that everything would now be ok was soon shattered upon arrival as we were informed that unfortunately the boys required Neonatal Intensive Care due to them being so premature, which is something Airedale are only able to provide for a limited time. Things looked like they would get worse as there was talk of moving the boys to separate hospitals in order to receive this care due to limited neonatal intensive care beds across the country. Luckily, the fantastic transport team of The Yorkshire and Humber Infant Transport Service, also known as Embrace, were able to pull some strings and space was found for both the boys to be transferred to the Neonatal Unit (Ward L43).
It was a tragic moment seeing our boys so briefly before they were taken from us albeit to receive the care they needed. It was at this moment that Emily against medical advice discharged herself in order to reunite our family in Leeds, under the promise of seeking continued treatment at LGI if this was required.
For a time there was hope that everything would be ok, as both the boys showed great strength and were improving. Within 24 hours, Dexter's breathing required less support and therefore he was taken off the ventilator and moved onto CPAP. The same was attempted with Zachary but unfortunately he did not respond as well to this as his brother and therefore he was returned to the ventilator.
The first night of the boys being over in Leeds, we were kindly put up in a room at the hospital, this was very much required after being up for almost 36 hours straight. The next day, we thought that we would be faced with the prospect of figuring out transport logistics between the LGI and our home which is over an hour away. The ward staff, unbeknownst to us, had made a referral for us to Eckersley House, which is funded by The Sick Children's Trust and just over 24 hours after we had arrived in Leeds we were being shown to our room by Fiona. Having not been aware of The Sick Children's Trust prior to this, our immediate thought was of the cost but these worries were soon alleviated when we were informed that our stay at Eckersley House would be entirely funded by the charity, as is every family's stay. Further to this, there was a direct line from our room to the ward on the hospital that allowed us to soothe worries in the middle night or request updates on treatment 24 hours a day.
However unfortunately, with the hectic day that had proceeded us, we had forgotten to pass on our extension to the ward staff. This resulted in a 5am wake up call from one of the nurses to inform us that Zachary was struggling. Following a head scan, it was revealed that he had suffered a catastrophic bi-lateral brain haemorrhage and we were informed that due to the extent of the bleed there was no chance of survival. These were the words that fill any parents with dread, but worse still the time we would have to spend with our son Zachary was ticking away fast. The hospital staff provided us with the opportunity to care for Zachary in the ways we as he parents were destined to, by allowing us to bathe, change and dress him.
Sadly after just 3 days and 17 hours of life, or son, Zachary passed away peacefully in our arms.
Eckersley House is located 100 yards from the entrance to the hospital, so one of the great worries that we had was removed and furthermore Jane, Fiona, Caroline and Sheila were always there offering support and guidance in our times of need. They provided us with a comfortable bed to sleep in and facilities to cook and clean ourselves, and we were always greeted with a warm and friendly smile. It was more than accommodation, it was a home away from home. While the hard working staff of the hospital were caring for our boys, Eckersley House and The Sick Children's Trust gave us the gift of time, time not spent wasted travelling or stuck in traffic but instead it was spent where we needed to be, by the bedside of our sick twins. After Zachary's passing the direct phone line to the ward became invaluable as it allowed us to call for an update with regards to Dexter's condition during the 2am task of expressing breast milk, this provided us with great comfort and enabled us get a more peaceful nights sleep.
Our stay at Eckersley House, gave us the opportunity to speak to and make friends with other parents that had children on the neonatal unit, which allowed us to not only receive support from them but also provide them with support. It became more like an extended family with everyone we came into contact with showing compassion and camaraderie.
Dexter came on in leaps and bounds, with only a couple of hiccoughs along the way, and after 4 weeks of round the clock care he was deemed stable enough to be transferred back to our local hospital of Airedale.
The provision of Eckersley House proved invaluable to us, as it allowed us to be right where we needed to be. We are so thankful that we were given the opportunity to stay there.
Without Eckersley House and The Sick Children's Trust, we would not have been able to spend anywhere near the amount of time with our boys that we did. During our stay, house manager Jane, made us aware that they were full to capacity and at one point had a waiting list of 15 families. We would like to raise money, in order for The Sick Children's Trust to be able to continue to run places like Eckerleys House and possibly even acquire additional properties so that they can increase the number of families that they can help.
In memory of our beautiful son and in order to raise money to support The Sick Children's Trust, we will be undertaking a years worth of challenges, 1 per month, throughout 2019. Some of these will be physical, some mental and some just for fun. We will provide updated throughout the year so that you can follow our fundraising efforts and, if you like, provide suggestions or even join in.
We would like to thank each and every one of you that donates in memory of our son, Zachary.
With all our love, Emily and Max (a.k.a. Team Bridges) xx
About The Sick Children's Trust
We believe every family with a seriously ill child in hospital should be able to stay together, just minutes from their child’s bed during their treatment.
That's the future we're working towards. With your help.
The Sick Children's Trust believes keeping families together significantly improves the recovery of seriously ill children. We provide free, high-quality ‘Home from Home’ accommodation, as well as emotional and practical support, to families with sick children in hospital in the UK.
The Sick Children’s Trust was founded in 1982 by two paediatric specialists, Dr Jon Pritchard and Professor James Malpas, who believed that having parents on hand during hospital treatment benefited a child's recovery. We are the longest-serving charity providing ‘Home from Home’ accommodation in the UK.
We currently have ten houses offering clean, comfortable accommodation where the whole family can stay close to their sick child’s bedside, and we are constantly looking for opportunities to extend our geographical coverage, or to improve our existing facilities in light of changes in paediatric care provision.
On average, 2 million children in the UK require hospital treatment each year. Every day, children are diagnosed with serious and life-threatening illnesses or have terrible accidents that leave them fighting for life. They often have to be transferred to specialist hospitals far from home to receive critical medical treatment. Life for their whole family is suddenly thrown into complete turmoil.
We work with the hospitals, supporting them in their role and providing complementary support to our families. We relieve some of the emotional and financial strains at a very stressful time, providing an essential service free of charge for up to 146 families every night, 365 days a year.
Whilst staying at one of our ‘Homes from Home’ is free of charge, it costs us £30 to support a family for one night. We rely entirely on voluntary income to meet this cost.
If you would like to know more about The Sick Children's Trust, please visit their website: https://www.sickchildrenstrust.org/index.html
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