Hanna Garrick

All funds raised will go towards improving the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at the Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity (RSCH).

Why we are supporting SCBU at RSCH - 

Our baby girls story started at the Royal Surrey Hospital three months before her due date. Unfortunately, she was too premature to be delivered at the Royal Surrey so we were urgently transferred to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth. Within hours of arriving at QAH Josie was born via emergency caesarean section. Ten hours after she was whisked away in theatre we were finally introduced through her incubator window. She was small enough to be held in one hand; we couldn’t believe how fragile and vulnerable she was. We watched the nurses delicately use a finger and thumb to gently manoeuvre her inside the incubator, and adjust the countless tubes and wires that surrounded her and covered her tiny face.
As first-time parents the medical staff reassured us and guided us how to undertake Josie's basic care within the confines of her incubator without affecting the machines keeping her alive. They demonstrated how to change her nappy, wash her body and face, move her and adjust her monitors, among many other things. It was clear to see that the nurses performed their roles with care and devotion all hours of the day and night. Their confidence and calmness encouraged us to remain positive through these difficult days.
Josie spent five weeks in QAH, mainly in intensive care within the Neonatal Unit. During her time in intensive care we were terrified of losing her and felt utterly helpless, knowing there was nothing we could do. No matter how many times people tell you that it isn't your fault and there is no reason for this to happen, you cannot help but feel guilty as you sit there and watch. We were fortunate to be given a small room in the hospital so we could stay near Josie, however not all families are so lucky. We spent all day and night in the hospital to be with Josie and care for her. While the world kept moving on the outside it felt like our world had come to a standstill.
Beside us and Josie for all these special moments stood Neonatal nurses keeping a watchful eye. Despite the relentless alarms sounding, the beeps and blood tests we learnt to keep calm (or try to) whilst the numbers on the machines fluctuated. What was normal to the doctors and nurses was so alien to us, something we were unprepared for. I think that’s why it stands out and was so scary.
After five weeks, three blood transfusions, ventilation support, numerous scans, blood tests and a huge amount of phototherapy Josie was finally transferred back to the SCBU at the Royal Surrey Hospital. We did not believe this would happen as it was the third time we were we told she would be transferred and the third time an ambulance had been booked. Each time her condition had deteriorated, this illustrates just how fragile life is on the Neonatal Unit and that everything can change in an instant. Parents on the Neonatal Unit are made aware that their journey won’t be straightforward; while steps forward can be made every day, the risk of going backwards is always there.
Josie didn't deal with change well and it took her a few days to settle into the SCBU. We were leaning to live with change too; the Royal Surrey is not currently able to provide accommodation for parents in the SCBU other than the occasional night. However, this is something they are currently planning to improve. Being at home away from our baby was very difficult. We spent as much time in hospital as possible, and telephoned during the night to check on her. Having left the Neonatal Unit we thought that the hard part of our journey was behind us but it almost felt like a step backwards when we realised she still had a long way to go.
During Josie's three weeks in the SCBU she conquered many milestones but more importantly, amongst other medical procedures, had her fourth blood transfusion which was a huge step backwards. At just under six weeks old she began to learn to take a bottle and we were stunned as we watched her take a tiny 8ml in one feed. At seven weeks old she could finally regulate her temperature well enough to take her first bath.
After eight weeks in hospital Josie finally arrived home. She is now a happy and currently healthy seven-month old, surprising us every day with her resilience and strength. We are so proud of our daughter, as all parents are, but when we look at her we are also so thankful to the hospital and staff for their care and support. We still have our moments when we are called back to the hospital late at night to have her blood re-checked and in December Josie spent a further week in hospital after a virus led to Bronchiolitis due to her weaker immune system caused by her prematurity.
When we look back at the time Josie spent in hospital it feels like an out of body experience. Despite the vivid memories we can barely believe we went through it and came out the other side. We look at Josie now and cannot comprehend she was ever so small and vulnerable. We owe so much to the Neonatal Unit and to the Special Care Baby Unit, particularly the staff. They are caring and dedicated, often working late to deal with new arrivals, and coming in on their days off to check on the babies. We are eternally grateful.
Before we had Josie we were unaware that one in ten babies is born prematurely. We know that not every family has the fortunate outcome we did. We met many families who had spent several months in hospital without knowing if or when they can take their child home. Every day many families rely on the hospital, its facilities, and the care and support of its staff. We aim to help the SCBU improve its facilities, and to improve the life of families like us who depend on it.

Hanna Garrick