When a child is born

AT Christmas we celebrate the birth of a child - but things don't always go exactly to plan when a child is born and many young lives have been saved by the Neonatal Unit at Ipswich Hospital.

By Tracey Sparling

AT Christmas we celebrate the birth of a child - but things don't always go exactly to plan when a child is born and many young lives have been saved by the Neonatal Unit at Ipswich Hospital. Features editor Tracey Sparling meets three families who are counting their blessings this Christmas time.

NOTHING could have prepared Matt and Claire Castle for the heartwrenching moment when they had to leave their beautiful baby twins in hospital, and return home alone.

Before Olivia and Evelyn were born, nurses had warned Matt and Claire they'd be so premature and tiny at 33 weeks that they would need to be in the special care of Ipswich Hospital's Neonatal Unit. But walking away from the hospital, Claire couldn't stop counting the windows to work out which room her daughters were in.

“I was distraught at having to go home without them,” she said, “but we knew they would be well looked after.”

The girls were born at 2am on August 17, and by 4am they were tucked up in special care.

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They were in incubators for 24 hours to keep warm, and had their food through a little drip until their sucking reflexes kicked in. They were in the intensive nursery for four days then moved into lower level care.

Claire, 25, said: “The staff were there for us right from the word go. It was traumatic just having given birth for them straight away to have go to special care. We decided to go home at the end of every day, then I was on tenterhooks to see them the next day!”

Matt, 26, added: “We had attention and help for as long as we wanted it, and it felt like almost one-to-one care although it obviously wasn't. Considering how many babies they were looking after, it was amazing how they were able to keep us informed without having to remind themselves from the files.”

Claire added: “After four or five days there was space for Olivia and Evelyn to be in a double cot together, which was magical.”

Then a nurse gave them a handmade card, showing their babies' footprints and a few carefully chosen words, a kind gesture which went beyond the bounds of duty.

Both girls now weigh a healthy 14lb, and are beginning to show their personalities.

“In a month they'll be four months old and they are very happy little girls, 99 per cent of the time! They say ooo and ahh lots, and the other day Olivia was screaming and I found she was just delighted at the mobile!”

They might be identical but Claire said: “We just don't know for sure yet. I can usually tell them apart, but I did get it wrong one day after Matt had dressed them!”

Jade Kyffin's weight plummeted to just six stone three pounds before her baby Chloe was born.

The 19-year-old from Dains Place, Trimley, has a health condition which makes it hard for her to keep food down, which was compounded by being pregnant.

She was just a shadow of herself by the time she was six months pregnant in July. When the bump that was Chloe subsided one day, she was convinced the baby had just moved, but doctors decided to do an emergency cesarean.

Jade said: “I had lost so much weight that my sister didn't recognise me when she came to the hospital.

“Everybody was very worried.

“After Chloe was born I stayed with her for three days but she stayed in nearly a month. For five days I couldn't hold her, but when I eventually did, I got that rush of love you hear about.”

Jade went home with fiancé Andrew Backhouse-Kennard, 21, and they visited every day, and stayed at the hospital for the last few days to adjust to life with a baby before coming home. They took pictures of her every day and Jade has compiled a scrapbook of memories for Chloe.

She said: “It was difficult because I wasn't awake when she arrived, so it was all a bit of a shock. The nurses were great, especially Magda and Lindsey in nursery one.

“They always asked how we were before telling us about Chloe so you knew they were concerned about you too.

Jade added: “They just made me feel so welcome, and you see each parent go in there and know they might be going through a worse time than you. One little boy had been in there for 100 days, so it makes you realise how lucky you are.

“You're all going through the same thing, all waiting and ready to go home as soon as your baby's well enough. You all take two steps forward then one step back, so you feel a special bond with all the other parents there, but at the same time it can be heartbreaking knowing your baby's still in hospital.”

TWINS Kyran and Ethan Lewin were delivered early after their mum Victoria suffered from pre-eclampsia.

“I was given one hour to live if I hadn't had them immediately,” said Victoria, 29.

“The boys were born on July 27, eight weeks early. Kyran weighted four lb 12oz, and Ethan was three lb 10oz, and he's still slightly smaller today. He's the cheeky one!

“I can recall them being born at 11.30pm, and seeing them, but after that I don't remember anything until a couple of days later. Then it was quite incredible to see them looking so tiny - I didn't expect them to be that small but they were healthy.”

Victoria, from Stowmarket Road, Great Blakenham, said the nurses in the neonatal unit were very helpful to her and husband Paul: “They were really supportive, and helped me get the bosy to feed. After three and half weeks they were allowed home, and we moved back in with my parents for the first three months until we got back on our feet.”


Has the Neonatal Unit at Ipswich Hospital saved your baby's life? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.