Amy and her husband, who were expecting their first child, were coming to the end of a week-long stay in Plymouth. The couple were just about to set off on the 300 mile journey back home to Leeds when Amy started to experience some signs of labour. It quickly became very clear that her baby was going to be born early. Amy says: “My initial thoughts were just utter shock and panic. I was so worried that he was arriving too early.”
The couple dropped everything and rushed to hospital. A spontaneous placenta abruption caused the baby’s heart rate to drop rapidly so their son had to be born via emergency C-section. Amy says:
Charlie arrived in a poor condition. Within 20 minutes of birth he received a blood transfusion and was on ventilation and oxygen. I was under general anesthetic due to the immediate risk and therefore wasn’t aware of the situation but my husband was. You can imagine what a scary time this was for my husband with both his wife and child in theatre, and unable to be there in the theatre himself.
In the days after his birth, the main focus for everyone was improving Charlie’s stability. The couple faced up to a three month stay in Plymouth Hospital which was over 300 miles from their home in Leeds. Amy says:
It was hard being so far away from family with the exception of my husband’s brother and girlfriend who we had been visiting. However, the staff in Plymouth were brilliant and did everything they could to make us feel at home and that we weren’t alone in that situation.
After a week of close monitoring the staff at Plymouth Hospital suggested that Charlie was stable enough to go home but only by plane. A five hour road journey would cause too much distress for Charlie and a helicopter would not be safe in the current weather conditions that were being caused by Storm Gareth. So the team at Plymouth contacted Embrace, a road transport service, and Lucy Air Ambulance for Children (Lucy AAC) to transfer Charlie from Plymouth Hospital to St James’s University Hospital.
The couple were so relieved to find out they were going home. “The thought of going home was something for us to focus on. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team at Plymouth Hospital were amazing but it was such a relief to be going home to be closer to family.” From that point everything started to move very quickly for the family. Amy says:
Once we knew that the flight was confirmed the NICU team were again amazing in terms of making sure Charlie was ready for his flight. We only found out on the day that our transfer was going to be possible due to the weather conditions. It wasn’t until Embrace arrived that we were informed Lucy AAC had funded the transfer.
Amy’s brother-in-law stayed to support her whilst her husband made the journey home by car. Amy says: “I was fortunate that I could fly with Charlie. It was a big relief for me as I appreciate that there are no guaranteed space on board the plane and the thought of having to drive seven hours without my baby boy filled me with dread.
As Amy boarded the plane she said she felt a whole mixture of emotions, “I was relieved to be going home but was really sad to be leaving the Plymouth NICU. However, at no point did I feel concerned for Charlie as both the Plymouth NICU team and transport team were highly professional and caring – no words can describe what comfort that gave to me.”
Amy and Charlie were greeted in Leeds by Amy’s husband and parents. She says: “When we landed I had a sudden realisation that we still had a long road ahead with Charlie but it was such a relief to be back home with our friends and family. The transfer meant so much to us! Charlie did amazing on the flight considering he was literally just over a week old and he seemed to take well to his new temporary home.”
Charlie has settled in well at St James’s University Hospital and continues to progress. Amy says:
Life is different now. Our world revolves around him. I have been back in Leeds almost a week now without actually going home but it’s important to us that we have a routine of carrying out his care and feed time. It makes us feel like we are looking after our baby boy.
Charlie is continuing to do well and is increasing his feeds. Amy says she realises that although he has come far in a short time, “there is still some time to go”. She says: “Right now we’re focusing on the day when we can all be back home as a family when Charlie is strong enough.”
In thanks to Lucy AAC, she says:
Words cannot describe how grateful we are for the amazing people who helped make it possible for us to bring our baby boy back home to Leeds. Thank you so much! We hope that one day in the near future Charlie can say thank you himself and as a family we will be supporting the Lucy AAC and the NICU team in Plymouth in our own way to say thank you.