When Joel was first born, his early arrival was not a shock.
Indeed, we had done well to get to 28 weeks. He spent 6.5 fairly uneventful weeks in hospital and came home just in time for Christmas. We had some worrying moments, but all in all, it wasn’t too horrific and deep down I think we knew he was going to be ok.
However, when Joel became ill in February, every piece of me knew that what was about to happen was going to be horrendous. I can remember on the first night, Nicola came to see me and I said to her, this isn’t going to just go away, this isn’t going to be easy. Two nights later and Joel was taken to HDU, where he was immediately transferred into ICU and intubated on life support. I was on my own as Gary was trying to park and they just said that they would have to put him to sleep for a few hours. A few hours turned into 3.5 weeks.
At first, I don’t know whether it was self-preservation or
shock, or a bit of both, but we didn’t allow ourselves to understand the
enormity of the situation. We camped out at the hospital with a smile, Gary somehow continuing to work nights and the two boys, only just 2 and 4 at home with friends and family. A week went by and more machines were added, more medication given. February turned to March and the Consultants did a change over. A week and a half in and I took the two big boys to the barbers, before getting on the bus to meet Gary at the hospital. As I walked into PICU with the boys, a play therapist came and took them to play and we were taken to a room with a nurse and Dee the Consultant. The conversation was one that no parent
should ever go through, and one that eventually broke us to comprehend how poorly Joel actually was. We had him baptised in hospital.
Joel continued to spiral down hill at a rapid rate, despite
the incredible efforts of the nurses and Doctors, he just wasn’t getting
better. and it was then that I can vividly remember promising Joel, that if he could just keep fighting, if he could just hang on in there, then we’d never stop fighting for him. He’d gotten so far, beaten all the odds and yet this huge hurdle was now standing in his way. Only he could do this, heartbreaking as it was, there was absolutely nothing we could do and medically, there was absolutely nothing they could do. He was declined potentially life saving treatment at other hospitals because he was too poorly to be moved and one of the Consultants told us that babies just don’t survive what he is going through.
Each time we were given more bad news, we told Joel not to
listen, to just keep fighting and not to give up. Each time, we knew he was listening as his little heart rate or oxygen levels would go up, or he would move a finger. I think he knew we weren’t giving up on him, so he wasn’t going to give up either. His determination and fight re-wrote all of the medical journals and when he opened his eyes on Mother’s Day, with his brothers either side of him, nobody could quite believe it. When they took him off the life support, there was a huge cheer from all of the doctors and nurses and Joel smiled for the first time – a true testament to his cheeky, fun character.
Joel came home for two weeks and then ended up back on life
support for a further week. We came home and he went back in again and this continued for nearly a year before he was put on daily medication. This hasn’t stopped the hospital visits and has brought its own problems, but Joel spends significantly less time in hospital now and has been able to be a ‘normal’ three year old in many ways.
So Joel kept his part of the promise, so we’ve had to keep
ours! We started with a 100km walk for Count the Kicks and then from that things have snow balled to marathons and bike rides. In fairness, it hasn’t been too hard, as Joel was born with a special gift. He seems to capture people’s hearts with his cheeky personality and smile, and then seems to have them agreeing to anything!
24 people are taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge for Joel's Heroes. We are raising money for Tommy's, the baby charity who funds research into prematurity and baby loss. Some will be taking part because they have their own personal stories, some for their own personal challenge, but all because Joel has asked them too!
Since Joel was born on 3rd November 2014, Joel's Heroes has raised more than £21,000 for Count the Kicks, Ronald McDonald House and Tommy's. We could not have done this without everyone’s support and for that there really are no words.
Joel’s Heroes, born out of the determination and fight of one little boy, has helped us so much to focus on creating something positive out of something that at times has been so incredibly tough, and for Joel will be a life long challenge. Joel's Heroes has allowed us to complete the challenges we've set ourselves and now the biggest challenge of all; to get 20 people helped by 4 drivers to the top and back down the three highest peaks of Scotland (Ben Nevis), England (Scafell Pike) and Wales (Snowden). The total walking distance is 23 miles and the total ascent is 3064 metres - all to be completed within 24 hours!
Joel's Heroes - never give up, never lose hope, keep on fighting! We've got this Team!
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