25 January 2018

Extra time please!

In the early hours of Monday 7th November, less than 24 hours after the birth of my daughter Aarya I was informed by the doctor on duty in the NICU unit that she needed to be moved to a Level 2 hospital. The care she needed couldn’t be offered in our birth hospital. Sadly, it wasn’t available in the other hospitals in Leicester either due to them already being over their number limits.

Aarya was taken by ambulance to Peterborough City Hospital about 2pm that afternoon and we didn’t see her again until Tuesday evening. She was still on a ventilator, when she left Leicester, but thankfully when she arrived in Peterborough she was fighting to get off it and within a few hours of being there the ventilator was removed and she was placed on vapour air.

The medical team were absolutely brilliant, the care they gave to my daughter was second to none and we can’t speak highly enough of them. 

Aarya spent 9 days in Peterborough City Hospital and whilst I know she was in the best place possible, it felt like we had been forgotten about by our birth hospital. 

From day 5 onwards Aarya didn’t need to be in a Level 2 hospital and was ready to come home, however the hospital in Leicester couldn’t allow us to come back due to being full. 

Now I know emergencies come first and I know when beds are full there isn’t a way to bring her back. But it felt like we had been sent to Peterborough and we were their problem now. I feel in all cases of babies moving away from their birth hospitals, there should be a duty of care put in place that would allow them to come back once they are well enough to do so. 

There must be hundreds of children away from their homes, struggling to find a way back.

During Aarya’s stay, we were very lucky that the hospital were able to offer my wife Bina a place to stay on the ward. She had her own self-contained room. Bina being so close to Aarya whilst she recovered was a real blessing to us, and I was allowed to stay when I could.

Bina and I decided early on that I wouldn’t take my paternity leave until Aarya came home, giving us more time together at home as a family. So during the week I would go to work at 7:30am, finish at 3:45pm get the train to Peterborough at 4:15pm, arrive in Peterborough at 5:15pm, go straight to the hospital, spend 2 hours with Bina and Aarya, before getting the 9:15pm train back to Leicester, arriving home for about 10:30pm. I’d go straight to bed, the alarm would go off at 5:30am and I’d start my day again, this went on for six days. But it felt a lot longer than that.

Had I been given extra time off to be with my family I wouldn’t have had to worry about work. I could have concentrated and given my family the attention they needed. Employees at Waltham Forest Council are entitled to an extra week of leave for every week their premature baby spends in hospital before their due date. I hope that in time all employers will adopt the same policy. Employers need to recognise that families with premature babies need extra time to deal with the early arrival of their child/children come to terms with their child/children being in hospital.

We were lucky that in the grand scheme of things Aarya’s stay in hospital was relatively short compared to many other babies. But the extra time together when she was born would have been so helpful, emotionally and physically. 

Bhavik - @bhavikghelani

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