Guys stick with me, this post is a long one but hopefully a goodie!
Today marks a really special day for me, it’s World Prematurity Day.
I’ll be really honest, until May this year, I had no idea this day existed and knew absolutely nothing about prematurity but on 22nd May, my wife Katy went into labour 2 months early with our beautiful baby girl, Isabelle. Isabelle is our first child and I suppose with most things in life, you have an idea in your head of what having your first child would be like. Unfortunately for us, what we expected to happen and what actually happened where very different!
We were so shocked that Isabelle had arrived so early and after a few quick cuddles she was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit in the Royal Victoria Hospital.
The first time I stepped foot in the unit to see her, I remember being so overwhelmed. I never expected to be looking down at my tiny baby in an incubator, on my own, having to wear a face mask because of Covid.
The staff in the unit were amazing. The doctors and nurses went above and beyond to explain all of her treatments and the machines and wires that were keeping her safe and well. After three days, Isabelle was well enough to be transferred to the high dependency neonatal unit in Antrim hospital. Again, the staff here were nothing short of amazing. They genuinely treated us like family and friends. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and took such excellent care of us and Isabelle.
Unfortunately Katy and I couldn’t visit Isabelle at the same time due to Covid restrictions so we often joked that not only were the nurses amazing at their jobs but they were also part time photographers. Every time Isabelle had a new ‘first’ like her first time wearing clothes or her first time having a bath, they took photos and videos so Katy and I could share them with each other when we got home. The staff knew how important these little moments were and how much we would rely on looking back on the positives when sometimes things felt really hard.
Our wee woman was an absolute trooper from the start. She smashed through everything that was put in front of her. After 30 very long days we finally got the call we had been waiting for that we could bring her home (in time for feathers day.) We were over the moon but also sad to say goodbye to the staff who had gone above and beyond for us during our stay.
Although we were so happy to get Isabelle home, things still felt a bit scary. We didn’t have the nurses and machines to tell us when things weren’t right and we felt a bit overwhelmed. That’s where Tinylife came in. Tinylife is a premature and sick baby charity who provide support for parents who find themselves in the neonatal unit. They helped us every step of the way of all the challenges you face bringing home a premature baby. They offered brilliant online baby classes for Katy to take Isabelle to which helped make things feel a little bit more normal with all of the Covid restrictions still in place. Tinylife also offered help and guidance with dealing with all the emotions and experiences we had been through as a family.
The words thank you will never be able to truly express how grateful we are to all the staff in the Royal Victoria and Antrim hospital and the volunteers and staff in Tinylife. Our experience of having our first child, premature and in the middle of a pandemic might not have been what we had expected and at times really felt too much to handle. Without all the people who truly went out of their way to look after us and treat us as though we were family we would have never made it through.
So next year, my brother and I will be taking part in an Ironman on 14th August in Cork and will be using the opportunity to raise money for the Royal Victoria And Antrim neonatal units and Tinylife. The money raised will help staff to provide specialist services and support for parents during and after their stay on a neonatal unit. If, due to Covid the event doesn’t go ahead (although fingers crossed it will!) we’ll do the same distances locally following Covid guidelines so no matter what, I’ll be running, cycling and swimming my heart out on 14th August!
I know this year has been super tough for everyone but if you are in the position to donate anything at all to these amazing causes, I’d be so grateful. I’ve included the links to the two Just Giving pages below, one for the neonatal units (the money raised will be spilt equally between the two units) and Tinylife.
I’ll be posting updates and progress on my training between now and the big day so please feel free to ask me any questions and support me virtually, or have a laugh at my expense because I’m sure there will be some falls, trips and bumps along the way! Cheers guys, as I said at the start, a really long post but one I hope was worth sharing.