Parents celebrate brave tot's first year

TOMORROW is a day that the parents of bonny baby Charlie Stones feared they may never see.

Rebecca Lefort

TOMORROW is a day that the parents of bonny baby Charlie Stones feared they may never see.

Today he is an excitable, mischievous and happy toddler, but just one year ago his parents Chris and Jo were facing a race against time to find a hospital to save his life.

Little Charlie who celebrates his first birthday tomorrow was diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) just a few days after he was born.

The disease is a serious illness in which tissues in the intestine become inflamed and start to die.

The couple, of Fircroft Road, Ipswich, faced an agonising struggle as doctors desperately tried to find a hospital to treat their newborn because Ipswich Hospital couldn't perform the operation needed to save his life.

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Eventually the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel said they could take Charlie and he was transferred by a special ambulance sent by Addenbrooke's Hospital.

Unable to go in the ambulance with him his parents had to endure a train ride to the hospital, after being told the journey to the hospital could prove fatal for their baby son.

But today the family, including big sister Gaby, aged eight, have nothing but praise for all the medical staff who worked so hard to save Charlie.

Mrs Stones, 34, said: “Four or five days after he was born we changed his nappy and noticed blood. They did tests and realised he had NEC.

“Ipswich Hospital said they couldn't treat him so the doctors rang round all the hospitals. The Norfolk and Norwich was full and Addenbrooke's (in Cambridge) could take him but not until the next day.

“Then Addenbrooke's phoned to say they couldn't take him because they'd had an in-house emergency.

“By that time he had perforated his colon and they were rushing around trying to find other hospitals.

“It was awful and really worrying.”

Mr Stones, 35, said: “We were on the train going down waiting for a phone call we desperately didn't want, because we knew it would be bad news.

“One hour and ten minutes was an exceptionally long time. We had been told the most dangerous time was in the transit.

“We felt helpless - it was a horrible feeling.”

Charlie had the operation and then stayed in the London hospital for three weeks, with his family spending lots of time at Stevenson House, a place for families to stay run by the Sick Children's Trust.

Mrs Stones added: “It was great to be able to stay there and they were wonderful.

“We want to thank so many people. Charlie was treated by so many doctors and nurses but they all still treated him like they knew him and they were all great. From Ipswich Hospital to the Royal London he didn't seem to be just another baby.

“We also got lots of support from both sets of grandparents and our friends really pulled around.”

Eventually Charlie was able to leave the hospital and although he has had to return occasionally for more operations he is now healthy and playful and all the family can look forward to a bright future.

- Have you received outstanding care from health professionals? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail

Fastfacts:- Necrotising enterocolitis

- NEC can lead to a perforation (hole) developing which allows the contents of the intestine to leak into the abdomen and cause an infection.

- It can be difficult to diagnose but the symptoms tend to include general signs of illness, problems feeding, and a swollen and tender abdomen.

- NEC is the most common surgical emergency in newborn babies and tends to affect more babies born prematurely than those born full-term.

- NEC seems to becoming more common, but it is likely that this is because more premature babies are surviving.

SOURCE: Great Ormond Street Hospital

- Why babies need to travel

MOST babies born at Ipswich Hospital who need surgery after their birth have to travel for treatment as Ipswich does not regularly carry out neonatal surgery.

Normally the sick youngsters travel to Norwich or Cambridge unless the units there are full.

A spokeswoman from Ipswich Hospital said: "NEC is a very complex condition which needs surgical referral, and in most instances cases will be referred to either the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital or Addenbrooke's Hospital.

"Ipswich Hospital only does a small amount of neonatal surgery because we are a level two unit, and while this doesn't mean we don't have the facilities or expertise among our clinicians to carry out neonatal surgery, we do not have the skill mix round-the-clock to be considered a level three neonatal unit."

She added that the hospital was a level two unit rather than level three because of national guidelines which had been interpreted locally by the East of England Strategic Health Authority.

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