MUM and dad Alison and Darren Charlton have been looking forward to quality family time with three-year-old James and 15-month-old Jessica.
But three years ago it wasn’t such a happy story for Alison and Darren, of Little Sutton. Alison, who was 40, was expecting her first child and at 24 weeks her waters broke early.
“It was really scary, but the staff in the maternity unit where I spent three weeks before the birth were really fantastic,” said Alison.
At 27 weeks Alison went into labour as James was born, weighing 2lbs 1oz. He was taken immediately to the neonatal unit and put on to a ventilator. James was also on CPAP and ended up needing oxygen for four months.
“I was just in total shock, it was all so completely unexpected and there was no warning I would go so early even though I had suffered from hyperemesis [severe morning sickness] throughout my pregnancy,” said Alison. “The staff in the neonatal unit were also amazing.”
James needed three blood transfusions while in the neonatal unit and remains under the care of several consultants. He needs regular physiotherapy, has some hearing issues and is shortly due to have a hernia operation. Fifteen months after James was born, Alison was pregnant again. Jessica was a full-term baby so Alison did not expect to need the services of the neonatal unit again.
“I had suffered from hyperemesis again but apart from that everything had been fine until about one week before Jessica was born when I felt a bit of a flutter in my tummy which I assumed was hiccups,” she said. “A few days later I went into hospital to be induced. Jessica was born and I was told it was a ‘textbook birth’.
“Everything was fine and Jessica passed the first paediatric test with everything showing as normal.
“However, she wouldn’t breast feed that night or take a bottle.”
She was with a health assistant who helped her to try and feed Jessica when Alison noticed it looked as though Jessica had hiccups again. But the health care assistant realised it was not hiccups and quickly found Jessica had suffered a seizure. Alison was later told Jessica had suffered a stroke in the womb before being born and was now suffering the after effects of the stroke. Following further scans Alison and Darren were told Jessica had suffered seizures on both sides of her brain.
She spent just under a month in the neonatal unit.
Darren said: “Fast forward 15 months and Jessica is now a perfectly healthy normal baby. She’s just taken her first steps and Alison and I just feel so lucky we have such a fantastic hospital on our doorstep. We want to share our story with Leader readers to help raise awareness of the incredible work taking place in both the maternity and neonatal units at The Countess.”
Alison hailed the staff at the Countess but said she knew from experience the need for improved facilities. She and Darren were grateful for being able to use the overnight accommodation and family lounge in the unit which has been provided by the Chester Childbirth Appeal.
The couple both work at Systems Labelling in Deeside and they have both volunteered to help the charity in any way they can in gratitude to how much they helped them.
The Babygrow Appeal has a target to raise £3 million to build a new neonatal unit that will be double the size of what currently exists.
It is currently close to the £900,000 figure.